By Clement Charpentreau
Turkey denied a request from the United States (US) to transfer its Russian-made S-400 air defense systems. According to the Turkish minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusogl, several offers were made by the US administration, which included transferring the weapons to the United States or directly to Ukraine.
“[The US] made offers that directly concern our sovereignty, such as give us control of [the S-400], give it to someone else,” the minister said on May 7, 2023, in an interview with the Turkish channel Habertürk TV. “[They] asked us to send the S-400s to Ukraine, and we said no.”
Washington and Ankara have been embroiled in a dispute since the latter decided to procure Russian S-400 platforms. The US voiced its concern that integrating the S-400 and the F-35 into the same system could compromise sensible information regarding the aircraft.
“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” said the White House press secretary in a statement. The dispute eventually led to Turkey’s exclusion from the F-35 program on July 18, 2019, scrapping its order for a hundred fifth-generation fighter jets.
The diplomatic chasm deepened even further when on December 14, 2020, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions against the SSB, the agency of the Turkish Ministry of Defense in charge of arms contracts, within the frame of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Since then, the Turkish Air Force has been looking for alternatives to modernize its fighter jet fleet. Cavusoglu ruled out Turkey reentering the F-35 program, arguing that the country was now “producing our own national combat aircraft.”
On May 1, 2023, Turkey presented its fifth-generation fighter jet, now known as the TF-X KAAN. The Turkish drone maker Baykar Technologies is also developing two carrier-capable unmanned aircraft, namely the Bayraktar TB3 and the Kizilelma, to replace the F-35B fighters that were expected to operate from the TCG Anadolu amphibious assault ship.