Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly expressed interest in buying Rafale fighter jets from France during a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron.
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On July 16, the Turkish Communications Directorate said in a press release that President Erdogan had spoken with President Macron on various issues, including the export of grain from Ukraine and the joint defense program with the France and Italy based on the SAMP/T air defense missile system. from Eurosam.
However, the press release does not mention Rafale fighter jets.
Shortly after the news of the conversation between the two presidents, a prominent Turkish military commentator, retired Lieutenant General Dr. Erdoğan Karakuş, appeared during a panel discussion organized by ‘A Haber’, a television channel. national television in Turkey, where he suggested that President Erdogan may have discussed Rafales with his French counterpart.
According to Karakuş, while the United States may reject Turkey’s request for 40 American F-16 Viper aircraft and 80 old-generation F-16C/Ds, Turkey is considering acquiring French Rafales. While US President Joe Biden favors the sale of the fighter jets, US lawmakers disagree with the sale.
US may reject Turkey’s F-16 request
Two days before the phone call between the Turkish and French presidents, the US House of Representatives passed a law prohibiting the US administration from selling or transferring F-16s to Turkey unless the administration certifies that it is essential to the national security of the United States and takes strong action. to ensure that fighter jets are not used for “unauthorized overflights” of Greece.
According to Karakuş, Biden cannot approve the sale under pressure from Congress and for fear of losing the votes of the Greek and Armenian lobbies. “Does he (President Biden) really want to give F-16s to Turkey? He doesn’t want it,” Karakuş said.
“Congress did not approve,” Karakuş noted while explaining that he had drawn “such a conclusion from Erdoğan’s meeting with Macron. I think Turkey also started researching Rafale planes .
Can France sell Rafales to Greece and Turkey?
Tensions between Turkey and Greece have led both countries to seek help from foreign countries to bolster their respective military forces. If there is any truth to Karakuş’s claims, it would seem that France is looking to take advantage of both sides.
France has already signed an agreement with Greece to supply 24 Rafale fighter jets, six of which were delivered in January 2022.
Watch: Greece receives Rafale jets from France; A Greek priest blesses jets and pilots, in a ceremony similar to “Shastra Puja” performed by India’s defense minister @DefenceMinIndia Rajnath Singh in 2019. pic.twitter.com/0Z6kHBHpjM
— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) January 20, 2022
To counter the threat from the Hellenic Air Force’s Rafale fleet, Turkey reportedly decided to train its fighter pilots on Qatari Air Force (QeAF) Rafale fighter jets so that Turkish fighter pilots familiarize themselves with the platform and its capabilities, according to an earlier report by the EurAsian Times.
According to the agreement between Qatar and Turkey, 36 Qatari jets and 250 military personnel would be deployed to Turkey to train for five years with the possibility of a one-year extension.
Burst preferable for Turkey to F-16s
Ankara would be better off acquiring the 4.5 generation Rafale fighter jets, compared to the F-16s which are 3.5 generation fighters with 4e generation capabilities. Furthermore, the Rafales are nuclear-capable fighters with semi-stealth technology, a capability that Turkey’s existing F-16 fleet lacks, an expert told EurAsian Times.
Therefore, Rafales might be preferable for Turkey, especially since Greece has already requested a squadron of 5e US F-35 generation stealth fighters.
Turkey was also a member of the F-35 program, but it was later suspended because Ankara decided to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system.
Meanwhile, even Iraq is reportedly considering buying 14 French Rafale fighter jets to counter Turkish F-16s that regularly take part in Turkish military operations targeting Kurdish militant groups lurking in northern Iraq.
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France will likely be ready to sell Rafales to Iraq, in which case the French-made fighter jets could serve as interceptors for the Iraqi Air Force to attack Turkish planes, potentially interfering with operations Turkish counter-insurgents, according to a recent report by the EurAsian Times.
Besides the Rafale, Turkey is also interested in the Eurofighter Typhoon, a generation 4++ fighter aircraft. In May, Turkish Air Force Chief of Staff Hasan Küçükakyüz visited the UK, during which he inspected the UK’s Rapid Response Alert which operates aircraft typhoon.