Su-35, Su-57 and TFX on the negotiating table between Ankara and Moscow

According to the Director of Federal Services for Russian Military and Technological Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, President RT Erdogan expressed the wish to deepen Turkey's cooperation with the Russian defense industry, particularly in the aeronautics field. And added that during the next meetings with his Turkish counterpart, the delivery of the S-400 systems, as well as possible deliveries of Su-35 and Su-57 to the Turkish Air Force, and advanced cooperation for the Turkish-designed 5th generation fighter program, the TFX.

If we already knew that Moscow was ready to take advantage of the exclusion from Turkey's F35 program decided by Washington following the acquisition and delivery of S400 systems, this hypothesis takes on an official dimension with the announcement made by Dmitry Shugayev, following the meeting between the Turkish and Russian presidents on the sidelines of the MAKS2019 air show, during which Vladimir Putin presented the Su-57 to his counterpart. But it is above all the link made between a possible acquisition of Russian aircraft by Turkey, and the involvement of the Russian defense industry in the TFX program, which gives substance to this approach.

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Turkey is in a very unique position today. The country had in fact planned the acquisition of around a hundred F35As and probably a few dozen F35Bs to arm its LHD. It therefore has the resources, and the need, to acquire a very significant number of new generation devices. This type of need was, until now, reserved for countries like India, with which we know how difficult it is to finalize a firm order. Ankara therefore represents an unexpected market for the Russian Su-57E, with a potential market of around a hundred examples. The Su-57 being potentially less expensive than the F35A, this number could even be expected to increase, given the ambitions of the Turkish president to establish himself on the regional scene.

And Moscow has already started to show its credentials, since during the press conference which followed the meeting between the two presidents, Vladimir Putin declared that he was considering the principle of a security strip on the Turkish-Syrian border under control of the Turkish army, as participating in the stabilization of Syria, a much more conciliatory position than that which has been his until now. In addition, statements in favor of advanced cooperation of Russian industry vis-à-vis of the TFX program, called to replace the approximately 250 F16 in service in the Turkish air forces from the middle of the next decade, are likely to attract the support of the Ottoman authorities.

Artist's impression of the Turkish 5th generation TFX aircraft program Defense News | Fighter aircraft | Military aircraft construction
The TFX program is not limited to one device, but will consist of a range of devices to meet all the demands of the domestic and export market

As we mentioned yesterday, Turkey's technological rapprochement with the Russian defense industry will hardly be possible if Ankara wants to maintain its place within NATO, with neither Moscow nor Washington being able to accept such a position. If RT Erdogan decided to leave NATO, despite the relatively measured positions of the American administration following the delivery of the first S400 battery this summer, the country would risk suffering severe economic reprisal measures in application of the CAATSA legislation. On the other hand, by remaining in NATO, Moscow will probably not agree to deliver its most modern fighter knowing that it will most likely be studied in detail by NATO forces to determine its flaws and weaknesses. But, in this case, Ankara would have no alternative solution to the F35A except for European aircraft like the Rafale or Typhoon, while the country favors 5th generation devices.

It cannot be excluded, however, that these negotiations are only intended to put pressure on the US authorities to encourage them to revise their positions regarding the delivery of F35s to Turkish forces. Indeed, as mentioned above, relations between Washington and Ankara have not known the cataclysm promised by President Trump and the American Congress if Turkey were to accept delivery of S400 batteries. On the contrary, each country has shown great self-control, having even started discussions to organize the creation of a security strip on the Turkish-Syrian border, in accordance with the demands of the Turkish president, without a unilateral Turkish military operation. which would threaten the US and European forces present alongside their Kurdish Peshmerga allies.

It is likely, therefore, that the months to come will bring new developments and clarifications on the real objectives of Turkey and its president. It cannot be denied, however, that the country has taken, in a few years, a determining position in world geopolitics.

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