Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation issued a statement on March 12th elaborating on the possibility of sales of advanced heavyweight fighter jets to Turkey, following sustained interest from the NATO member state in making such purchases. The service’s spokesman Valeria Reshetnikova stated to this effect: "As for Ankara’s potential plans of purchasing Russian Su-35 and Su-57 fighters, it should be noted that the Turkish side has been informed about their technical specifications in full. If there is a request from Turkey for these planes, we are ready for negotiations on this issue.” Turkey was formerly the world’s leading foreign client for the Lockheed Martin F-35A fifth generation single engine fighter, and was an integral member of the fighter program responsible for producing several key components for the aircraft domestically. The country’s eviction from the program, however, led it to express interest in acquiring heavier classes of ‘4++ generation’ and fifth generation fighters from Russia - namely the Su-35 and Su-57.
Turkey’s eviction from the F-35 program notably followed its purchase of Russian S-400 air defence systems which it favoured over Western competitors despite considerable political pressure. The S-400 purchase came just a few months after a failed coup attempt in Ankara which Turkish government sources widely alleged the United States and its partners were involved in. Even before its eviction, however, Turkey had also sought to develop a cheaper class of next generation fighter domestically under the TF-X program. The program has drawn widespread skepticism due to the modest state of Turkey’s industrial base and its lack of experience with even basic fourth generation designs, with even South Korea which has a far more developed industrial base and much greater experience with military aviation still relying heavily on foreign technologies for its KF-X program. Russia’s offer to support the TF-X, therefore, could be vital to its success and may lead to a very high composition of Russian technologies. Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation stated regarding its willingness to support the program: "The Turkish side has for quite long stated its intention to implement the project of developing its own TF-X fifth-generation fighter. Russia earlier indicated that it was ready to consider the possibility of cooperation under this program. However, we have not received the corresponding request from Ankara so far.”