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NATO’s Nightmare: Russian Stealth Fighters Headed for Turkey?

Russian Stealth Fighters
Su-57 in 2011

It was announced this week that Russia is prepared to hold negotiations with its sometimes regional partner Turkey over the sale of Su-35 and Su-57 combat aircraft should the Turkish government express interest in the Russian-built fighters.

The two nations have what can only be described as a long and complicated history and while they have fought numerous wars over the centuries, and are currently backing different factions in the ongoing Syrian Civil War, Turkey has been a buyer of Russian military hardware.

Russian Stealth Fighters for Turkey?

Since it was ejected from the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II program for its purchase of the S-400 ‘Triumf’ air defense system, Turkey has had to look elsewhere as the nation seeks to upgrade and enhance its air force. The Su-35 and Su-57 could certainly be enticing for the Turks.

“As for Ankara’s potential plans of purchasing Russian Su-35 and Su-57 fighters, it should be noted that the Turkish side has been informed about their technical specifications in full,” Valeria Reshetnikova, spokesperson for Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, told Tass on Friday.

“If there is a request from Turkey for these planes, we are ready for negotiations on this issue,” she added.

Russia has already expressed interest to participate in the Turkish TF-X fifth-generation fighter program. A pre-production mock-up of the twin-engine TF-X fighter was displayed at the 2019 Paris Air Show, and its developer, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), has said that it could take its first flight in 2025 and could be ready to enter service as early as 2028.

Despite the optimism for the program, Moscow and Ankara haven’t actually discussed a more formal partnership.

“The Turkish side has for quite long stated its intention to implement the project of developing its own TF-X fifth-generation fighter,” Reshetnikova added. “Russia earlier indicated that it was ready to consider the possibility of cooperation under this program. However, we have not received the corresponding request from Ankara so far.”

Turkey had been set to receive thirty F-35A Lightning II aircraft in 2018, and Ankara had invested $175 million in the Joint Strike Fighter’s development. Yet, even before Turkey had been ejected from the program, it had sought to develop a domestically-built stealth fighter in addition to joining with the Republic of Korea’s (South Korea’s) KF-X stealth aircraft program.

The TF-X was developed as part of a joint-effort between and the UK-based BAE Systems and was designed to replace the F-16 Fighting Falcons currently in service with the Turkish Air Force. Additionally, Ankara has announced that the still-to-be-built aircraft would be offered for export.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that building the TF-X was “the best response to those threatening to end Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 program.” The second best response could be turning to Moscow and acquiring the Su-35 and Su-57 fighters.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Peter Suciu
Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    David Williams

    March 15, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    Biden DOESN’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT. AFTER ALL HE IS IN CHINA AND RUSSIA’S POCKET!

  2. Avatar

    RepublicansAreDestoryingAmerica

    March 16, 2021 at 9:59 am

    If they acquire these fighters, Turkey needs to be kicked out of NATO yesterday. His two lane terrorist highway is one of the major reasons islamic militants are still in Syira.

  3. Avatar

    Saychoss

    March 16, 2021 at 4:59 pm

    Go ahead Russia, I dare you! Turkey has shown itself to be quite unstable/unpredictable the past few years. They will be happy to use the technology you give them against your own air and ground forces in Syria just as they have in the past. Frankly, your systems suck, but go ahead and give them both your S-400 and stealth fighter technology because, knowing the Turks, they will sell it to the highest bidder as soon as you look the other way. Then NATO will have some genuine Russian-made crap military hardware to fine-tune their weapon systems against.

  4. Avatar

    Mark Levin

    March 16, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    It is long past time to kick Turkey out of NATO, get out nukes out of there and put an end to any further consideration of Turkey joining the EU. And, it’s time to tip Erdogan over, and in the process, setup an independent Kurdistan.

  5. Avatar

    John S

    March 16, 2021 at 10:43 pm

    I think labeling the Su-57 “stealth” is a misnomer. Just looking at it, there doesn’t really seem to be anything stealthy about its design (huge, fairly-upright stabilizers, lengthy portions of its twin engines are exposed and end in conventional nozzles, lots of conventional angles, etc.); it seems to be a cargo-cult copy of the the F-22. Granted, it probably has a pretty good EW suite, and perhaps it has some sort of absorbent coating (though the various silly paint schemes it has worn suggest otherwise), but stealth is a sum-of-parts attribute.

    Let the Turks have it; it will give us plenty of data to evaluate. It says a lot that the Russians are so desperate for rubbles that they don’t seem to share our concern over providing a competitor-adjacent ally with their most advanced weapons systems. Russia is a paper tiger, and if we were smart (which we most certainly aren’t), we’d establish détente with them and triangulate against the real enemy, China. As Kissinger said, it was better for the US “to be closer to either Moscow or Peking than either was to the other.” Pretty simple stuff, but apparently beyond the woke idiots who run State these days.

  6. Avatar

    Brian Foley

    March 17, 2021 at 11:54 am

    If the Russians sell Su-57 fighters to Turkey it becomes a “good news/bad news” scenario for NATO. The bad news is obvious, the sale of Su-57 fighters to Turkey demonstrates the further degradation of Turkey’s relationship within NATO. The good news is that everyone and their brother will get a “real good close up view” of the Su-57. It’ll give the Israelis a chance to test out their brand new F-35’s against Russia’s latest and greatest. The Russians utilize an intergraded approach to air defense. With the S-400 system in Turkey and the S-300 systems in Syria the Israelis will have the best read on Russian capabilities. The introduction of the Su-57 just fills in more of the knowledge gap.

  7. Avatar

    AJP1960

    March 17, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    Although I agree with all the points raised, I really don’t see that Turkey has an option. It’s air force is aging and it needs new planes. With access to F35s being withdrawn and their own, indigenous plane the best part of a decade away Russia is the next bet.

    I’m not happy, and TBH would prefer to see Turkey kicked out of NATO and barred from EU membership OR Erdogan replaced with a more secular premier who could cosy back up to Europe and the US

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