Russia and Turkey Say They’re in Talks on Fighter Jet Sales

(Bloomberg) -- Russia and Turkey said they’re discussing sales of Su-35 fighter jets and possible supplies of the latest Russian stealth warplane, as Moscow seeks to exploit divisions between Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the U.S.

“Consultations have begun on both the Su-35 and, as a longer-term subject, the Su-57” fifth-generation fighter, Dmitry Shugaev, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told reporters Wednesday at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. Still, it’s “premature to speak about any contract talks” and Turkey hasn’t submitted any specific request for Su-57s so far, he said.

The talks on possible purchases of fighter jets including the Su-35 and the Su-57 are “at a very early stage,” Ismail Demir, head of Turkey’s main state body dealing with arms procurement and production, said in an interview with A Haber TV.

The U.S. in July suspended Turkey’s ability to buy and help build its advanced F-35 stealth warplane after Erdogan took delivery of a Russian S-400 missile-defense system, defying warnings from President Donald Trump. Turkey had planned to purchase about 100 F-35s and will have to seek alternatives if its North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally maintains the ban.

Erdogan flew to Moscow last week to join Russian President Vladimir Putin at an air show, where they inspected the Su-57 and the Su-35. A smiling Putin told him “you can buy” the warplane when Erdogan inquired if the Su-57 was for sale. When Turkish reporters asked Erdogan later whether the stealth fighter may be an alternative to the F-35, he replied “Why not? We did not travel to Moscow for nothing.”

Russia and Turkey Say They’re in Talks on Fighter Jet Sales

The U.S. says acquiring the S-400 system is incompatible with Turkey’s role in NATO and the F-35 program because it may allow Russia to glean information about the fighter’s technology. Turkey insists it had to turn to Russia because NATO partners including the U.S. wouldn’t meet its defense needs on Turkish terms.

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