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Friday, August 5, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Turkey cites budget concerns in scaling back
F-35 order from 120 to 6

ANKARA — Turkey appears to have significantly reduced the scope of plans to procure the Joint Strike Fighter from the United States.


The government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has scaled down plans that until 2009 called for the procurement of 120 F-35 fighter-jets. Under the latest proposal, Turkey's Defense Industry Undersecretariat, or SSM, would begin with an order of no more than six JSF aircraft.

"If we manage to reach an agreement, we expect to order the first six aircraft this year," SSM chief Murad Bayar said.

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In a briefing on July 7, Bayar acknowledged a dispute between Ankara and Washington over JSF, Middle East Newsline reported. The defense official suggested that they included price, coproduction and technology transfer, particularly access to the aircraft's source code.

"We will have talks [with the Americans] in the months ahead in an effort to resolve some matters," Bayar said.

Turkey has been designated a Level 3 partner of JSF and sought the fighter to replace the aging F-4 and F-5 fleet. But Ankara as well as other non-U.S. JSF partners have refrained from submitting a formal order amid significant delays in the aircraft project.

Officials said the Erdogan government has been concerned that it could not afford a major JSF purchase. They said the price of the aircraft has risen by more than 20 percent over the last two years.

Another issue has been Turkey's demand to expand its share of JSF production. Officials said Turkey wants to increase JSF coproduction from nearly $5 billion to at least $6 billion over the next two years.

In the briefing, Bayar did not rule out that Turkey would delay its first order of six F-35s, meant for delivery around 2015. He raised concerns of a budget shortfall.

"If we don't place the first purchase order by the year end, it would not necessarily mean that we have failed to agree," Bayar said. "It may mean that we, at this point, may not have the finances."

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