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Türkiye still pursuing F-35 refund as it eyes to buy Eurofighters

Türkiye continues its efforts to get the F-35 fighter jet funds reimbursed while working with allies to procure Eurofighter Typhoons, a senior defense official said on Thursday.

At a press briefing, the Defense Ministry’s Public Relations Adviser Adm. Zeki Aktürk stated that negotiations on F-35 fighter jets were ongoing with the U.S. but there was no change in the positions of both countries.

However, Aktürk noted that they hoped to recover the money they had paid for the jets.

Türkiye sought to purchase Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets, but the U.S. imposed sanctions, known as CAATSA, and removed it from the multinational program to buy and help develop and build the warplane in 2019 after it acquired S-400s from Russia.

Washington argued the air missile defense systems posed a risk to the advanced fighter jet, whereas Ankara insisted they would not be integrated into NATO systems.

Türkiye had ordered about 100 F-35s and its companies were building some 900 parts for the fighter jet.

Türkiye has repeatedly demanded reimbursement for payment it had made for the F-35s and has since requested to buy F-16 warplanes and modernization kits to refresh its existing fleet.

After a prolonged process that frustrated Ankara, the U.S. Congress recently finally approved the $23 billion sale of 40 new F-16s, as well as nearly 80 kits after Türkiye formally ratified Sweden’s membership in NATO.

U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Jeff Flake last Sunday stressed the issue of the S-400 air defense systems remains unresolved, but said “we want to find a solution.”

Flake recalled a recent visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who said Washington was open to welcoming Türkiye back into the F-35 program if the issue over S-400s is resolved.

Flake said Nuland had “proposed a solution.”

“We are keen on overcoming the issue; we just haven’t been successful yet,” he added.

Aktürk emphasized that Türkiye’s ongoing focus is on its homegrown next-generation warplane.

“At this stage, we need to focus on KAAN,” he said.

The fifth-generation jet conducted its inaugural flight last month to mark the latest advancement in the country’s efforts to upgrade its air force and curb external dependency.

The jet will make Türkiye one of the few countries with the infrastructure and technology to produce a fifth-generation combat aircraft.

It is sought to replace the aging F-16 fleet in the inventory of the Air Forces Command, which is planned to be phased out starting in the 2030s.

The prolonged process over the F-16s led Türkiye to begin discussions to buy Eurofighter Typhoon jets. In November, it announced that it was in talks with Britain and Spain to buy 40 Eurofighter jets, though Germany has objected to the idea.

Ankara has repeatedly urged Germany to align with the NATO spirit and said it maintained interest in buying Eurofighters despite the progress with the F-16 sale.

The warplanes are built by a consortium of Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain, represented by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo.

Aktürk stated that the efforts to procure Eurofighters are ongoing and that discussions between the U.K. and German officials on the matter are continuing.

“Our expectation is for our allies to take decisions in line with the spirit of the alliance and common security perspective. We believe that positive results will be achieved,” he added.

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