Russia offering Turkey Su-57 fighters in place of F-35s - analysis

Moscow has added fuel to the ongoing rift between the U.S. and Turkey by stating it is ready to work with Turkey on the export and production of their Su-57 advanced fighter jet to fill the void of the U.S.-produced F-35s, wrote Tyler Rogoway and Joseph Trevithick in an article they penned for The Drive automotive website.

Washington has said that Ankara’s planned purchase of Moscow's S-400 air defence system will come at the cost of the U.S. embargo on F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey.

The S-400s could be used by Russia to collect sensitive information on the F-35s if the two systems are used simultaneously, U.S. officials maintain. They have threatened to exclude Turkey from the F-35 programme and not deliver the 100 fighter jets it has ordered from the United States.

The article quoted the head of Russia's top state-run industrial conglomerate Rostec, Sergey Chemezov, as saying, "These fifth-generation Russian fighter jets [the Su-57] have outstanding qualities, and show promise for export," and that Russia was "ready to cooperate" on possible sales to Turkey of the jets if the country's planned F-35 purchase order fell through.

The U.S. Congress passed legislation last year to block the delivery of F-35 jets to Turkey if the Turkish government took delivery of the Russian missiles. Washington has also offered to sell Patriot air defence batteries to Turkey, of Ankara cancels the S-400 purchase.

Pointing out that Turkey has at least eight major contractors involved in producing portions of the F-35, the article underlined that these companies have been set to make billions from the project.  

It is not surprising that Russia is interested in offering to fill in if the deal for the 100 F-35s flops, Rogoway and Trevithick said, Russians struggling to support the Su-57 programme, taking delivery of less than a dozen pre-production examples of the jet over the past eight years.

Recalling India, Russia's only foreign partner on the program, abandoned the project, the article underlined reports that Russia may be looking to China as a potential new foreign partner in the Su-57 programme.

However, China has two different stealth fighter designs already flying, and may not be interested in acquiring another advanced fighter jet.  

‘’Turkish involvement on a scale similar to the country's participation in the F-35 program could still provide a much-needed cash infusion into the Su-57 program and could help support other associated developments, such as specialized ordnance,’’ the article said.

The move would however, further cement Turkey’s breaking away from the Alliance while prompting calls for the U.S. military to discontinue its use of Incirlik air base, which hosts American nuclear weapons, it added.

Meanwhile, pro-government news outlets in Turkey have begun advocating Turkey’s preference for Russia’s next-generation Su-57 fighters, instead of the F-35s.

Turkey’s main news agency published a comparison between the F-35 (which is currently being delivered) and Russia’s Su-57 (currently in flight-testing phase) to deliver the point that Washington’s threats over F-35 deliveries were futile.