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Turkey set to ‘go Russian’ and acquire Sukhois to take place of F-35

01 November 2019
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan look over a Sukhoi Su-57 on 27 August at this year’s Moscow Air Show. A deal under which Turkey will acquire Su-35s and Su-57s has reportedly been sealed. Source: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Turkey looks set to buy Russian Su-35s and Su-57s, having been ejected from the US-led F-35 programme
  • Ankara has reportedly been offered its own variant of the Su-57

Turkey, now ejected from the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme, may be poised to make a major change in procurement policy and acquire advanced fighters from Russia. Such a decision would align with a previous Turkish procurement in which US and other NATO-nation air defence systems were rejected in favour of the Russian Almaz-Antei S-400.

That S-400 purchase is what initially led to Turkey being pushed out of the F-35 project over concerns that Turkey's operation of the S-400 could put radar signals analysis of the F-35 in the hands of the Russians.

Turkish news outlets have reported that negotiations between Moscow and Ankara on the purchase of the Sukhoi Su-35 'Super Flanker' began shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin held one-to-one discussions at the August 2019 Moscow Air Show. The negotiations reportedly took two months to finalise.

That said, as recently as 29 October Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was denying any Su-35 deal, reportedly maintaining, "We are F-35 partners, and we say give us what is rightfully ours."

The initial Russian proposal was that Turkey join the Su-57 programme to replace its F-35 acquisition plans. This idea was initially declined, with a Turkish counterproposal including two streams of activity. The first was the acquisition of 36 Su-35s, with a contract signing to be announced by the end of this year. Turkish interest in the Su-35 has been partially based on evaluation of its performance in the Russian air campaign over Syria.

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