Kalin talked about Turkey’s relations with the U.S concerning F-16 aircraft acquisition and modernisation, F-35 programme and S-400 air defence system acquisition. Kalın reminded that Turkey wants to procure 40 F-16 Block 70 fighter jets from the United States and said, “Expanding our existing F-16 fleet and modernising our existing F-16s can be considered as an alternative for the money we paid.”
He stated that Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program is an illegal and unfair practice. “It is a wrong and costly decision not only for Turkey but also for the F-35 program. I hope they give up on this mistake as soon as possible, but we have a budget of 1.4 billion dollars for that project if they don’t. This is our money. What are the alternatives to use it properly? If the F-35 issue is not resolved in the near term, then it is natural for us to look at alternatives. Turkey is not without alternatives in the field of the defence industry,” he said.
Touching on the defence industry embargoes against Turkey, Kalın stated that explicit or implicit embargoes no longer have the old effects. Kalin said, “If someone is thinking of punishing Turkey in these ways, they should be reminded that this is a futile idea and useless pursuit. Our first choice is to buy the F-35s, which is our right. However, due to the sanctions, we will not give up on the project to strengthen our fighter jet fleet. If this crisis with the USA is overcome, Turkey will enter the program again, and we will get our F-35s there; If it is not resolved and the problem remains like this for a while, we will continue our search for alternatives.”
Kalin also touched upon Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 from Russia and responded to the U.S.’s new CAATSA sanctions warnings:
“Everyone knows the process that led Turkey to buy the S-400, and we still believe that this is a problem that can be resolved through negotiations. But we also see with regret that the American side, especially in the Congress, certain anti-Turkey circles resort to imposing sanctions using this as an excuse. This is not something that fits into the alliance relationship, and it is a situation that harms Turkish-American relations. This is an approach that hinders and postpones the steps we can take together in this region. Turkey determines its own defence needs as a sovereign country and takes the necessary steps accordingly. Our primary preference is to act together with our allies and carry out joint projects with them. We do not ask for grants from anyone, and we do not expect favour. We want to buy and develop this technology with our own money. We have repeatedly stated that the CAATSA sanctions are unfair, unwarranted, and unlawful. We insist that the American administration review its stance on this issue. Not seeing the strategic importance of Turkey can only be explained by strategic blindness.
Kalın refused the criticism that the F-16s have “old technology” and said; currently, F-16s make up a significant part of Turkey’s and NATO airpower. It will continue to function for a while. As one of the strongest allies of NATO, we continue our work in this field in line with the interests of our country.
Kalın has also stated that the U.S. is not the only option for Turkey
“Turkey is not a country without alternatives in the defence industry and other fields. These alternatives can be our domestic products, Russia, Europe or other places. Here, we have always evaluated the proposals brought to us under the most suitable conditions within the framework of our own national interests and priorities. In other words, the same offer is valid for Americans. If they bring us an offer on favourable terms, we can take the Patriots. We look at it positively, but it must be under the conditions that we expect and accept. What is this? It’s the price and delivery date, but the most important thing is co-production, technology transfer. The S-400 issue continues as a process, but we continue to look closely at all other alternatives.”