ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday suggested Turkey could look to Russia for an alternative after the US excluded Ankara from its F-35 fighter jet program.
Following Turkey’s controversial purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, Washington discontinued Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 program.
“If the US continues with the same attitude on the F-35 issue, we will take care of ourselves. Will it be the Su-35? The F-35? Or the Su-57?” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara, referring to Russia’s Sukhoi fighter jets.
He indicated that the Turkish government was still in the early stages of considering its options.
“Beyond putting the Su-35, F-35 or Su-57 on the table, we are exploring what measures we can take for our defense industry, for our defense,” Erdogan said. Joint production and credit plans were conditions that would be sought, he said.
Turkey has repeatedly said that Ankara wants to become a producer of military hardware and not just a buyer from countries such as the US and Russia.
Erdogan’s comments came after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday on the margins of the MAKS international air show on the outskirts of Moscow, a showcase for Russia’s military and civilian aerospace industry.
Turkey had ordered over 100 F-35 jets and its defense industry had plowed significant investment into the jet’s development.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier on Friday during a visit to Oslo that Turkey had spent $1.4 billion on the F-35 program.
“In the worst case scenario, President Donald Trump told Erdogan in Osaka during the G20 (summit in June) that they will pay this money back to Turkey. But we hope that we will not get to that stage,” Cavusoglu said.