Parth Satam:  US Lays ‘Stealth Trap’ To Seal Multi-Billion F35 Deal With Turkey, Abandon S400s

The US is willing to readmit Turkey into the F-35 program if Ankara addresses Washington’s reservations about the S-400 air defense system that it acquired from Russia, according to Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, a promise repeated by White house spokesperson John Kirby.  Ankara has responded by stating that Turkey has not changed her stance on keeping Russian made S-400s.  Parth Satma explains the US plan to attract Turkey to the Western alliance.


US Laid A Trap Of Carrot & Sticks

How the US sequentially timed its incentives, offers, and pressure points in order to force Turkey to concede to Washington’s demands that played out in a matter of days is fascinating.

Long wanting to modernize its air force and maintain a regional military balance, Turkey ensured its parliament finally ratified Sweden’s NATO membership and deposited the ‘instrument of ratification.’


The US then reciprocated by approving the F-16 sale to Ankara. But then it also immediately announced the F-35 sale to Greece, Turkey’s arch-rival.


Knowing fully well it would tilt the military balance in the Mediterranean towards Greece, Turkey, and the US knows the former would need a comparable aerial platform. Simply having an F-35 killing S-400 would not be enough. Its only option would be to possess its own F-35 fleet.

Aware the Turks would make this calculation, Nuland revealed the offer to reopen the doors for Turkey into the F-35, most likely stunning Turkish defense officials.


Military Dynamics

Interestingly, the US, too, is keen on selling the F-35s to Turkey. If Greece operates its stealth fighters, Ankara could be forced to activate its S-400 batteries, which could challenge and reveal F-35’s stealth secrets.


Currently, Turkey is enforcing an arrangement with the US that keeps its S-400s in a deactivated mode. Even more curiously, the presence of F-35s with both Turkey and Greece benefits Russia too.


Assuming Turkey does not take the US offer (of the F-35 being back on the table in return for its S-400s) and simply decides to rely on the Russian missile system to challenge the Greek F-35s, the stealth jets would certainly be compromised. But they, too, would gather tell-tale ELINT about the S-400s. Officials from the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and Lockheed Martin would have access to the Greek F-35’s missions computer database for a significant amount of time since the procurement also includes personnel training, service, and logistics support.


Moreover, the Greek F-35s would have greater ELINT and electronic warfare (EW) capabilities if they were the Technology Refresh-3 (TR-3) and Block 4 variants. It now remains to be seen how Turkey responds to the US bombshell.



Will Turkey bite the bait?  Columnist for Islamist and pro-government Yeni Safak Nedret Ersanel comments:


“However, the statement that “there is no change in our current stance”, emphasized in the statements of both the White House and the Turkish Ministry of Defense, reminds us that that US is being disingenuous in its offer. As of now, there is no tendency for Turkey to throw away the S-400s and start the F-35 process over again, nor is there any flexibility in the USA’s patronizing language of “If Turkey does what we want” position. Moreover, the desires of the Turkish public are not in this direction…”


He adds:


Let’s agree on this first; It is unlikely that the great powers will give up on the Middle East. However, it is no longer possible for them to set up a game alone. That’s why they are looking for a new relationship model with the “updated new medium-sized countries” of the new order in the ‘Greater Middle East’ – the first of which is Turkey. For them,  the ‘search’ is finding  players who are available to use.

For Turkey, new conditions make it possible to ‘capitalize on’ and force this mind in the opposite way.

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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.