Turkey close to signing Russian fighter jet deal – report

After having been kicked off the United States-led F-35 fighter jet program Turkey is set to sign a deal to buy Russian fighter jets, according to a media report.

The DefenseNews website cites a senior Turkish procurement official as saying that “talks have quite matured” for Turkey to buy the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets.

“A deal does not appear to be too distant,” he was quoted as saying.

The U.S. and Turkey fell out over the latter’s decision to buy Russia’s air missile defense system.

In July this year, the U.S. administration suspended Turkey from participating in the F-35 jet program over Ankara’s refusal to pull out of the deal with Moscow for the purchase of the S-400 air defense system. The expulsion is slated to be completed by the end of March 2020.

The F-35 jets are built by American firm Lockheed Martin Corp to avoid tracking by enemy radars and heat sensors. The U.S. had given Ankara until July 31 to scrap the contentious deal.

Turkey had listed the apparent  U.S. refusal to sell the Patriot missile defense system as it’s grounds for turning to the Russians. It also wanted a technology transfer of the system, something that the U.S. was also reluctant to provide.

The Patriot missiles had, however, been deployed in Turkey by other NATO member countries.

Turkey has insisted that the S-400 missile defense system would not be integrated into NATO defense systems, with Gulnur Aybet, a senior adviser to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, being quoted last month by the Daily Sabah newspaper as saying that Turkey was still open to buying the Patriot system.

The S-400 missile defense system was delivered in August.

According to DefenseWeb, if the deal goes through, as many as 48 Su-35 jets would initially be sold to Turkey, with an estimated price tag of between $50 million and $70 million per jet.

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