Murat Yetkin: THY is buying the fleet from Airbus, the Eurofighter manufacturer

On December 19, it was announced that Germany’s national airline Lufthansa had signed a $9 billion deal with US aircraft manufacturer Boeing for the purchase of 100 aircraft and Airbus for the purchase of 60 aircraft. Four days earlier, on December 15, it was announced that Turkish Airlines (THY) had signed its largest-ever aircraft purchase agreement with European Union (EU) aircraft manufacturer Airbus. It is a technical issue to discuss the fact that Germany, an Airbus partner, bought all the 355 airplanes THY needed from Airbus while buying them from the US company, and it is for the Turkish Parliament to question that. However, when Airbus is also the co-producer of the Eurofighter Typhoon, which the US wants to buy to replace the F-16 fighter jets that the US has imposed political conditions to sell to Turkey, and when President Tayyip Erdoğan says that Germany is blocking the sale, the issue takes on a political dimension.

Will the Eurofighter barrier be lifted?

Turkey’s desire to buy NATO-compatible Eurofighter Typhoon fighters if the United States continues to refuse to sell F-16s was officially expressed for the first time by Yaşar Güler, the Minister of National Defense, during a meeting of the Turkish Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission. This was one day before President Tayyip Erdoğan’s November 17 trip to Germany, which took place during the tense Gaza crisis. Guler, who was previously Turkey’s Chief of General Staff, was practically announcing Turkey’s need for the aircraft to NATO. He was also announcing that the UK and Spain, Eurofighter co-producers, were trying to convince Germany.
The Eurofighter partnership also includes Italy; the UK has a 33 percent share, Germany 33 percent, Italy 21 percent and Spain 14 percent. The German and Spanish programs are carried out within the framework of Airbus.

The 4.5th generation Eurofighter Typhoon is a relatively expensive aircraft, with a unit cost of around $90 million, close to the 5th generation F-35, which costs almost $115 million. The 4th generation F-16s are close to 20 million dollars. However, the $18,000 hourly flight cost is cheaper than the $22,000 F-16 and the $36,000 F-35. Maintenance costs are also reportedly lower. Despite Erdoğan’s statement in Germany, in the shadow of the Israel-Holocaust controversy with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, that “If not, we will buy another,” Güler told reporters on December 16 that the Eurofighter Typhoon is “the only aircraft they see as the best alternative” to the F-16s for Turkey. The day before, THY had signed a huge deal with Airbus.

Defense, trade and politics seemed to be intertwined.

Political situation: F-16, Sweden, Greece, Israel

On December 14, US President Joe Biden told President Erdoğan on the phone that he expected Sweden’s NATO membership “as soon as possible”. On December 18, on his return from Hungary, Erdoğan revealed that Biden had told him that he, too, had promised to remove the Congressional obstacle to the sale of F-16s if Erdoğan could get the approval through Parliament.

Erdoğan could easily overcome the parliamentary obstacle by convincing his partner, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, with whom he is negotiating a candidate for local elections. But it is doubtful that Biden will easily overcome the Congressional obstacle.

The F-16 sale was blocked by the Greek and Armenian lobbies in Congress. We know that Biden spoke on the phone about the positive impact of Erdoğan’s friendly rhetoric during his visit to Athens on December 7. (Former Foreign Minister and DEVA leader Ali Babacan questioned whether Erdoğan’s words “We don’t want dogfighting” meant that Turkey was giving up its sovereign rights in the Aegean.) On the same day, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan gave a message of normalization with Armenia, which is on the way to mending its relations with Azerbaijan. However, while these developments were taking place, Turkey was on its way to normalize relations with Israel. Hamas had not yet attacked Israel and Israel had not yet started massacring civilians in Gaza.

Russia and Canada dimensions

As can be seen, the political balance is highly complex.

On top of this, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit Turkey in early 2024. Putin is offering Turkey the Su-35, which is not NATO compatible, or the Su-57, whose serial production has been delayed. On the other hand, it was after Erdoğan’s decision to buy the S-400 from Russia that the United States (under Donald Trump, who is now likely to come back to power) removed Turkey from the F-35 program, of which Turkey is a co-producer, and blocked the F-16s it wanted to buy to replace them.

On the other hand, it is reported that the problem with Canada, which Erdoğan explained on the plane, stems from the camera systems used in Bayraktar’s Bayraktar. Despite Selçuk Bayraktar’s statement that the camera system produced by the Canadian company is better made in Turkey, Erdoğan’s raising the issue indicates that the problem has not been fully resolved. Canada, which had previously objected to the use of the TB-2 by Azerbaijan against Armenia, has now reportedly put forward the condition of Sweden’s NATO membership.

THY-Airbus, Lufthansa-Boeing

Let’s talk about the commercial aspect.

Lufthansa will buy 100 B737-8 Maxes from Boeing for 9 billion dollars, 40 of which are firm orders and 60 of which are SAHs. At the same time, it has also signed a deal for 60 A220-300s from Airbus, 40 of which are firm orders and 20 of which are purchase rights.
THY, on the other hand, has decided to purchase 250 A321 NEOs, 150 of which are firm orders and 100 of which are SAHs; 80 A350-900s, 60 of which are firm orders and 20 of which are SAHs; 15 A350-1000s, all of which are firm orders; and 10 A350-Freighter cargo aircraft, 5 of which are firm orders and 5 of which are SAHs, for a total of 355 aircraft, all from Airbus.
It was not disclosed how much Turkey will pay for this giant deal. THY’s largest shareholder is the Turkish Wealth Fund (TWF), chaired by President Erdoğan, with a 49.12 percent stake.
After this huge deal with Airbus, the amount of which we do not know, do you think that Germany’s objection to the sale of the Eurofighter, of which Airbus is also a manufacturer, will be lifted?