Turkey may decide against purchasing Russia’s Su-57 stealth fighter, following its expulsion from the U.S.’ F-35 advanced fighter programme for purchasing a Russian missile system, said an analysis for conservative U.S. outlet The National Interest.
The Sukhoi Su-57, Russia’s soon-to-launch fifth-generation stealth fighter, has emerged in the past few months as the frontrunner in Russia’s export pitch to Turkey, along with the Su-35S, according to Mark Episkopos, PhD student in history at American University.
On Tuesday, Lockheed Martin said it is still receiving parts for the F-35 stealth fighter, even though the United States expelled Turkey from the production process in July, when Ankara began receiving shipments of Russia’s S-400 systems. The Pentagon expects Turkey to be fully out of the programme by March 2020, according to Investors’ Business Daily.
“Russia’s defence industry has aggressively targeted Turkey as a ripe candidate for the Su-57, with Russian President Vladimir Putin even personally pitching the export version of the fighter to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the MAKS 2019 Airshow,” Episkopos wrote for National Interest on Tuesday.
He sees two clear concerns for Ankara: first, the Su-57 could never replace the F-35 because the two fighters are designed for different purposes; and second, it is unclear that Russia can produce the Su-57 in sufficient quantities for Turkey.
“Finally, there are the usual early adopter’s risks of being the first to purchase a fighter with no performance record,” said Eskisopos.
The Su-35S shares much of the Su-57’s DNA, though it has an ageing, if still capable engine and a less stealthy frame, according to Eskisopos. Its advantages for Ankara would be a proven export track record and a better price.
“Although Ankara continues to play its procurement cards close to its vest, the Turkish defence industry has at least expressed preliminary interest in the Su-35 as an interim solution until it’s own, fifth-generation ‘TF-X’ fighter enters serial production,” said Episkopos, citing a recent statement by Turkey’s under-secretary of defence.