Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed optimism on Thursday that his government would recover the $1.4 billion it put toward acquiring Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet amid talks with the United States.
“We will get this $1.4 billion of ours one way or another,” state-owned Anadolu News Agency quoted Erdogan as telling journalists on a flight returning from an official visit to West Africa.
Why It Matters: The US government expelled Turkey from a club of nations allowed to purchase the F-35, the latest-generation fighter jet for the United States and its NATO allies, in 2019 after Ankara also purchased Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
US officials over two administrations say the Russian air defense system threatens to compromise the F-35’s technology.
Turkish officials demand the F-35s be delivered or Turkey be reimbursed.
What’s Next: Erdogan said Thursday he plans to discuss the issue with President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome on Oct. 30.
“I believe we will make progress,” the Turkish president said.
Late last month, Turkey’s government formally requested to purchase 40 additional F-16 fighter jets from the United States and 80 modernization kits for its existing F-16 fleet, Reuters first reported, following a report in the Greek press.
Erdogan said earlier this week the US administration proposed the sale to compensate for Turkey’s $1.4 billion loss, but State Department spokesperson Ned Price subsequently challenged that assertion, saying there was yet no agreement on financing for Ankara’s hardware request.
Without the F-35s, Ankara needs to maintain its aging F-16 fleet until it can mass produce indigenous fighter jets or find another alternative.
Earlier this week, the head of Turkey’s state-run defense acquisition oversight body, Ismail Demir, suggested his government could buy Russian Su-35s and Su-57 jets if the F-16 deal falls through.
Erdogan also recently boasted earlier this month about chatting with Russian President Vladimir Putin about greatly expanding defense ties with Moscow — a move that would be a major affront to NATO.
The F-35 dispute has played a central role in dragging US-Turkey relations to its lowest point in decades, even as Washington needs Ankara as a NATO ally amid renewed tensions with Russia and Iran in recent years.
Know More: Check out Amberin Zaman’s in-depth interview with Alan Makovsky, one of the foremost experts on US-Turkey relations, on the future of the NATO partnership.