Turkey may buy Russian stealth fighter jets

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspecting a Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet at the MAKS-2019 international airshow, a showcase for Russian military technology, in the Moscow region on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspecting a Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet at the MAKS-2019 international airshow, a showcase for Russian military technology, in the Moscow region on Tuesday.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Ankara to deepen defence cooperation with Moscow amid strained ties with the US, Nato

MOSCOW • Russia and Turkey are discussing the possibility of delivering the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet and Su-35 aircraft to Turkey, the RIA news agency cited a Russian official as saying yesterday, as both countries pledged to deepen defence cooperation.

Russia began delivering S-400 missile systems to Turkey this year, in a step that strained ties with Ankara's Nato allies and prompted Washington to begin removing Turkey from its programme for manufacturing F-35 jets, which Turkey also planned to buy.

The head of Russia's Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation said he planned to discuss the S-400 missile defence system with a Turkish colleague and "possibly deliveries of the Su-35 or Su-57".

"Much interest has been shown, it's early to talk of contract negotiations, there hasn't been an application yet, consultations have to take place," Mr Dmitry Shugaev, the official, was quoted as saying.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said Ankara wants to continue defence industry cooperation with Moscow, including on warplanes, following talks in the Russian capital with President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Putin told reporters that Russia is ready to "actively discuss" further sales and even joint production of weapons following Turkey's purchase of the S-400 air-defence system that prompted the dispute with US President Donald Trump.

"We talked about cooperation on the Su-35" fighter jet and "about possible work even on the new Su-57 plane", Mr Putin said, after he and Mr Erdogan inspected the cockpit of the fifth-generation warplane at an airshow in the Moscow area.

Turkey insists it was forced to turn to the Russian air defence system because Nato partners including the US would not meet its defensive needs on Turkish terms. Washington has repeatedly offered to sell Patriot air defence missiles to Ankara, but without the technology sharing that Turkey said it needs to develop its domestic production capabilities.

He said shipment of a second S-400 battery began on Tuesday.

Mr Erdogan said Turkey wants to continue "solidarity in many areas of defence industry" with Russia, including in fighter jets, and "we'll develop rapidly".

Mr Erdogan's visit follows Washington's decision last month to suspend Ankara's ability to buy and help build the advanced F-35 stealth warplane in retaliation for defying Mr Trump and taking delivery of the S-400.

The United States has said acquiring the system is incompatible with Turkey's role in Nato and the F-35 programme because it may allow Russia to glean information about the fighter's advanced technology.

Turkey had planned to purchase about 100 F-35s and will have to seek alternatives if the US maintains the ban.

After a crisis when Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border in 2015, Mr Putin and Mr Erdogan have strengthened economic and military ties amid strained relations between Turkey and its Nato ally.

Flanked by their defence ministers, Mr Putin and Mr Erdogan toured the MAKS-2019 international airshow, a showcase for Russian military technology.

They viewed displays of the Su-35, helicopters and an amphibious aircraft as well as the Su-57.

When Mr Erdogan inquired during the tour whether the Su-57 is available to buy, a smiling Mr Putin replied: "You can buy."

 
 
 

Turkey insists it was forced to turn to the Russian air defence system because Nato partners including the US would not meet its defensive needs on Turkish terms.

Washington has repeatedly offered to sell Patriot air defence missiles to Ankara, but without the technology sharing that Turkey said it needs to develop its domestic production capabilities.

Mr Putin and Mr Erdogan have also sought to ease a rift over a Kremlin-backed offensive by the Syrian army against rebels in the northwestern Idlib region that risks sparking a fresh exodus of refugees to Turkey.

The Syrian military earlier this month broke a ceasefire over Idlib to wage an offensive against a one-time Al-Qaeda affiliate in the last major rebel redoubt.

Mr Erdogan has called the recent developments a "very serious security threat".

Mr Putin said they had reached an understanding on additional joint measures to stabilise the situation and neutralise terrorist centres in Idlib, without giving details.

Russia supports the creation of a security zone on Turkey's southern border with Syria, which will also help to maintain Syrian territorial integrity, Mr Putin said.

Mr Erdogan will host Russian and Iranian leaders in Ankara on Sept 16 to discuss ways to hold back the Syrian army.

Russia said preserving the ceasefire in Idlib depends on the elimination of thousands of militants.

Turkey has so far refrained from using force against the extremist despite repeated calls from Moscow, relying on the presence of Turkish troops in Idlib as a deterrent against a large-scale attack on the Sunni Muslim-majority province.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline 'Turkey may buy Russian stealth fighter jets'. Print Edition | Subscribe