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Turkey flirts with Asian arms suppliers

Turkey looks east for alternatives to NATO arms markets.

When fighter aircraft from NATO-member Turkish and Chinese air forces conducted their first joint air exercises in Turkish airspace in September 2010, few people guessed that could be the beginning of a broader defense and security relationship. Four years later, the big three in Asia are on a determined course to replace some of Turkey’s traditional ties with NATO allies.

The breakthrough came from South Korea in 2001 when Turkey signed a $1 billion contract for the acquisition of the T-155 self-propelled howitzer. Six years later, the Korean aerospace powerhouse KAI won a nearly $500 million Turkish contract to sell a batch of KT-1 basic trainer aircraft, followed by a few years of silence. But presently they are seeking ways to find a slot in Turkey’s indigenous fighter jet program, the TFX. If they do, that will automatically reserve them a seat in the TX, a parallel program designed to develop trainer aircraft for the TFX.

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