The Italian Defense Ministry continues pushing Turkey to join the Eurofighter aircraft project as an alternative to its present fleet of US-made jets. “Turkey wants part of its fighter aircraft fleet to remain outside the technological and other influence of the United States,” says a Turkish defense analyst
The pan-European Eurofighter fighter aircraft is the only viable alternative to U.S. planes in its category for the Turkish military, Italy’s deputy defense minister said late Tuesday, urging Turkey to join the ambitious European-led defense program.
“The Eurofighter is the only alternative to U.S. aircraft, and provides a great relief to world countries,” Guido Crosetto told a small group of international reporters through an interpreter on the sidelines of the 2011 International Defense Industry Fair, or IDEF, being held in Istanbul. “If Turkey joins this program, the program would gain a larger importance,” Crosetto said.
Turkey, whose present fighter fleet is comprised of U.S.-made aircraft, also plans to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II planes, a next-generation, multinational program also led by the United States.
But Turkish officials privately say they want another future jet fighter to be developed with a country or countries other than the United States, in an effort to reduce Ankara’s over-dependence on Washington.
Most of Turkey’s present fleet of F-16 fighters is being modernized by the United States.
Lockheed Martin and the planned future F-35s are open to U.S. influence. Only its older F-4 aircraft, modernized by Israel, and its oldest F-16s, being modernized by Turkey itself, are technologically free from this influence, the officials believe. But these older aircraft are expected to be decommissioned around 2020.
“Turkey wants part of its fighter aircraft fleet to remain outside the technological and other influence of the United States. It believes this scheme would better fit its national interests,” said one Turkish defense analyst