October 31 2013 Burak BEKDİL
Turkey will revisit plans to purchase new F-35s at the beginning of next year, having previously postponed a decision in January. A top undersectariat official says the delay will actually work to Ankara’s advantage
Turkey’s government and military planners must decide on the country’s commitment to a U.S.-led, multinational new-generation fighter jet program by mid-January 2014 at the latest, according to Turkey’s top defense procurement official.
Murad Bayar, head of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), has said Ankara will renew an order for an initial batch of two F-35 aircraft soon. The order had been suspended in January.
Bayar said the SSM would submit a request to renew the suspended order to the Defense Industry Executive Committee in December or January 2014. The committee is the ultimate decision-maker in defense procurement matters and is chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Its other members are Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and Bayar himself.
In a Jan. 10 decision, SSM cited rising costs and technological issues for its decision to indefinitely postpone an order to purchase its first two F-35 fighter jets.
But procurement officials admitted at that time that there was a “certain degree of psychological deliberation at work, too.” Turkey did not want to “stand alone in the dark’’ on the program, said an SSM official.
“We must make a decision on the first order by mid-January,” Bayar said. “The delay in placing the order has worked to our advantage in terms of price, more stable costs and technology.”
After the initial purchase of the two jets, Turkey plans to order 100 units of the stealth fighter to replace its F-4 Phantoms and F-16 Fighting Falcons.
Bayar said Turkey remained committed to an eventual acquisition of 100 aircraft.
Turkey is one of nine countries that are part of a U.S.-led consortium to build the F-35 fighter. The others are Britain, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Norway and Denmark.
Turkey announced in March 2011 that it was placing its order for 100 jets on hold due to a U.S. refusal to provide adequate access to the aircraft’s source codes. Ankara said negotiations for access to the codes, including codes that can be used to control the aircraft remotely, had not yielded satisfactory results, and under these conditions, Turkey could not accept the aircraft. The issue remains unresolved.