Turkey to spend $10 billion on 100 new combat aircraft

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s air force plans to buy 100 new generation combat aircraft worth $10 billion (8.33 billion euros) and will decide by the end of 2006 which aircraft to purchase, the Anatolian state news agency quoted a senior official yesterday as saying. NATO member Turkey will choose between the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), whose construction is being led by Lockheed Martin, and the Eurofighter Typhoon, being built by a European consortium. Ankara may also opt for a combination of the two planes. Anatolian quoted Defense Industry Undersecretary Murad Bayar as saying during a trip to the United States that the new warplanes would replace the F-16 and F-4 aircraft currently used by the Turkish Air Force. He was also quoted as saying Turkey wanted its own defense industry facilities to handle half of the warplane project. Bayar, Turkey’s chief procurement official, was expected to hold talks with Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon and US defense industry officials during his stay in the United States. The JSF, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons project at more than $250 billion (208.3 million euros), is a US-led effort to develop a family of radar-evading, supersonic, multi-role warplanes with co-financing from eight other countries, including Turkey. Other partners include Britain, Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. But the project has been hit by a row over Washington’s reluctance to share technology. Turkey, whose largest arms supplier has traditionally been the United States, has invested $175 million (145.8 million euros) for the development phase of the JSF and is hoping to win contracts worth up to $5 billion (4.16 billion euros) for its domestic industry, Turkish media say. The Eurofighter, a supersonic, twin-engine aircraft, is being built by a consortium including firms from Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany. EADS is the major shareholder in the Eurofighter.