ISTANBUL BLOG: Here’s your F-16. Make mine an F-35

ISTANBUL BLOG: Here’s your F-16. Make mine an F-35
The emperor, with his clothes on.
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade February 29, 2024

Turkey has received draft letters of offer and acceptance (LoA) from the US in relation to Ankara’s planned acquisition of 40 Block-70 F-16 fighter jets and 79 F-16 modernisation kits, Rear Admiral Zeki Akturk, a spokesperson at the Turkish defence ministry, said on February 29 during his weekly briefing.

Turkish officials, volunteered Akturk, have started the required examination and evaluation of the letters. They are expected to meet US counterparts to finalise the deal once the review is complete.

Lately, the US and the Erdogan regime have once again become as thick as thieves. How and why Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, got himself into such a tangle in trying to bag some fighter jets is quite the mystery.

Turkey was a partner in the US-led programme to develop and manufacture the stealth F-35 aircraft, the most advanced fighter jet in the world. But then Erdogan, having survived the summer 2016 coup attempt, went shopping at the Kremlin and picked up an array of S-400 air defence missiles.

Why he did so remains a puzzle. Some say it was to equip himself with missiles for use against the American F-16s in the Turkish air force, should a fresh coup attempt backed by figures in the armed forces and plotted by the US be put into action to overthrow him. 

Erdogan regime voices in the shadows, meanwhile, have circulated the idea that Vladimir Putin ordered him to buy the S-400s as a precondition for a normalisation of relations after the Turkish air force downed a Russian jet in Syria in November 2015.

Whatever the truth, the US kicked Erdogan out of the F-35 project. Erdogan did not make an issue out of it, instead setting out to repair and upgrade his F-16s while buying a fresh batch of the planes.

However, even when it came to the F-16s—patently inferior to F-35s—the US Congress made a problem. Its stance could be summarised as: “Okay, you are useful, but you are too spoilt. You make too much noise and you have the mouth of a sailor. You should become a good kid again.”

Erdogan became a good enough kid and the path to the F-16 deal opened up.

If you cannot determine the deep strategy underpinning these episodes, don’t worry yourself. It is only visible to those powers that be who were divinely placed on Earth to rule over us.

Meanwhile, lately, Erdogan’s generals flew a prototype of Turkey’s own “native and national” stealth fighter jet, the Kaan (when defence officials work out where to get a “5G” engine from for their “air superiority vehicle”, we can dispense with talk of a “prototype”).

Prior to every election, Erdogan commends to the crowds some “mega” technological developments.

According to his regime’s “defence analysts”, the F-35 is in fact trash. Who needs it when pursuing the “native and national” Kaan is so clearly the right policy (talk of the missing engine is, of course, taboo).

Erdogan ahead of last year’s May polls was also found unveiling his own aircraft carrier (actually a “mini” aircraft carrier that takes to the ocean with squadrons of drones, namely the Bayraktar models developed by Erdogan’s younger son-in-law). Turkey’s mighty leader also declared some free pre-election gas for everyone, as talk turned to how newly discovered Black Sea deposits were set to transform the energy-import-dependent nation’s fortunes (latest trade news reports, unfortunately, indicate that the big talk could be set to fall flat on its face).

So, there we have it. Based on official statements emanating from the Ankara palace, Erdogan will soon be sending out his native and national jets on his native and national aircraft carriers. They can cross the Atlantic and bomb the US Congress the next time he gets miffed by disagreeable senators.

It's a cool hypothesis, but there’s one small problem in the way. Regional rivals Greece and Israel have both bought F-35s. And Erdogan won’t have the technical capacity to enter into dogfights with Greek or Israeli F-35s in the skies over the Mediterranean as his radars aren’t even able to detect them.

As things stand, he is not even able to switch on the radars on his S-400s, since the US will not allow him to do so (not if he wants to see his F-16s and other goodies turn up in Turkey further down the road).

In the past year or more, our vociferous Turkish leader has stopped yelling at the Greeks over territorial and other disagreements as that’s the way the US wants it. The drilling ships he bought to press his claims to gas deposits in the Mediterranean basin are not seen outside of Turkish ports.

It's a lot to think about. But as the dictator of the hour, he can think about it all tomorrow, if and when he needs to think about it.