The sale of F-35 to Turkey again considered by Washington

Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said the sale of F-35s to Turkey was once again a working hypothesis for the US administration, just days after Joe Biden paved the way for deliver the F-16Vs requested by Ankara.

The efforts made by President Erdogan to normalize relations between Turkey and Greece, and the authorization given by the Turkish Parliament to Sweden's accession to NATO, have visibly convinced Washington that a new dynamic could be launched, in order to bring Turkey back into the Western fold. And the F-35 will obviously play the role of the American offering, to convince Ankara to embark on this path.

Towards a renewed relationship between Ankara and Washington, against the backdrop of a change in Turkey's international posture

The change in posture initiated by President Erdogan, newly re-elected, on the international scene in recent months is clearly bearing fruit. After threatening last year to launch its missiles at Athens and seize manu militari the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, block Sweden's membership in NATO, and having flirted, for four years, with Russia, China and Iran, the Turkish head of state has, for several months, presented a much more attractive face for the West, and especially for the United States.

Erdogan Putin Su-57
On several occasions, President RT Erdogan has discussed with Russia the possible acquisition of fighters by Turkey.

Firstly, RT Erdogan went to Greece to meet his counterpart, K. Mitsotakis, in order to normalize and calm relations with his neighbor and eternal rival. A few weeks later, he ended the blockade on Sweden's membership in NATO, obtaining a large majority of his Parliament in the vote on this subject. Finally, Turkey seems to have distanced itself from Moscow and Beijing in recent months, without breaking with them, but by reducing the intensity of relations.

This change in posture, and especially the agreement given for Swedish membership in NATO, was immediately welcomed by Washington. President Biden thus called on Congress to authorize, “without delay”, the sale of 40 new F-16V fighters, as well as 80 modernization kits to this standard, to modernize the Turkish air forces, in a contract worth more than $20 billion.

For good measure, and to reassure Athens, a major equipment transfer and industrial cooperation program in the field of Defense was announced by the United States and Greece, while the American Department of State authorized the sale of 40 F-35As to the Hellenic Air Force, for $8,6 billion.

This positive dynamic between the United States and Turkey could well go well beyond just the F-16V which will soon be ordered. Indeed, the question of a possible return of Ankara, in the F-35 program, would now be raised at the highest levels of the State.

The chaotic journey of the F-35 sale to Turkey

Everything started very well for the F-35 Lightning 2 in Türkiye. Initial partner of the Joint Strike Fighter program, the Turkish Air Force, like the country's defense aeronautical industry, were key partners, with 30 aircraft under firm order, and a total requirement of 100 aircraft in 2018, i.e. At the time, the largest non-American fighter fleet.

sale of F-35 to Turkey
Lockheed-Martin had already built 6 F-35As for the Turkish air force when the country was excluded from the program.

However, following the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016, relations between Ankara and Washington quickly deteriorated, as Turkey moved closer to Vladimir Putin's Russia, Xi Jinping's China and even from Iran. Tensions in the Aegean Sea with Greece and Cyprus, but also in the Mediterranean with European naval forces ensuring the naval blockade of Libya, further aggravated the situation.

However, it was the Turkish intervention in northern Syria, against the Kurdish allies of the United States and Europeans facing Daesh, and especially the decision to acquire the S-400 anti-aircraft system from Russia, which sealed the fate of the F-35 in Turkey.

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