The announcement in Ankara Tuesday that the government is “putting on hold” a massive arms purchase from the United States worth 16 billion dollars needs to be noted carefully. Following a meeting of his ministry’s so-called Implementation Committee, Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul made this announcement. Gonul announced that Turkish government was suspending the planned purchase of 100 F-35 fighter jets from the US since the negotiations over the procurement tender have not yielded “satisfactory results”.
He said what is on offer from the US in terms of technology sharing is not enough for Turkey to accept the jets. Besides, while the negotiations were on, US also began jacking up the costs. Most important, US has refused to share with Turkey the ‘source code’ used in the software designed for the aircraft as well as the ‘remote flight code’ [code that might be used externally to activate the planes]. Turkey finds the US attitude unacceptable.
The Turkish contention is that without the 'source code', Turkish engineers won't be able to make any changes to the software that operates the jets. The 'external flight codes' are as important if not even more important as they can be used externally to navigate the jets. The Implementation Committee meeting at the Defence Ministry, which took the decision on the procurement tender was attended by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and Turkish Chief of Genral Staff Isik Kosaner.
Turkey is one of US's closest Cold war allies and is the second biggest military power within NATO. What is striking is that even toward a key ally such as Turkey, US maintains a highly restrictive attitude with regard to transfer of military technology. Of late, Turkey has begun to diversify its sources of purchase with a view to reduce its dependence on US.
The Turkish experience holds lessons for India. Assuming that the US is a strong contender in India's 10 billion dollar MRCA tender, how naive it will be to put the entire 126 eggs in the American basket, which was what a recent 150-page study ["Dogfight! India's Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft Decision"] by Carnegie Endowment gracefully advised India to do!
– March 24, 2011