Turkey to Buy 100 Combat Jets Worth $10 Billion

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey’s Air Force plans to buy 100 new generation combat aircrafts worth $10 billion and will decide by the end of 2006 which ones to purchase–a senior Turkish official said Tuesday.

NATO member Turkey will choose between the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)–whose construction is being led by Lockheed Martin–and the Eurofighter Typhoon–being built by a European consortium.

Ankara may also opt for a combination of the two planes.

Defense Industry Undersecretary Murad Bayar said that the new warplanes would replace F-16 and F-4 aircraft currently used by the Turkish Air Force.

He was also quoted as saying Turkey wanted its own defense industry facilities to handle half of the warplane project.

Bayar–Turkey’s chief procurement official–was expected to hold talks with Lockheed Martin–the Pentagon and US defense industry officials during a visit to the United States.

The JSF–the Pentagon’s costliest weapons project at more than $250 billion–is a US-led effort to develop a family of radar-evading–supersonic–multi-role warplanes with co-financing from eight other countries–including Turkey.

Other partners include Britain–Australia–Canada–Italy–the Netherlands–Denmark and Norway. But the project has been hit by a row over Washington’s reluctance to share technology.

Turkey–whose largest arms supplier has traditionally been the United States–has invested $175 million for the development phase of the JSF and is hoping to win contracts worth up to $5 billion for its domestic industry–reports the Turkish media.

The Eurofighter–a supersonic–twin-engine aircraft–is being built by a consortium including firms from Britain–Italy–Spain and Germany. EADS is the major shareholder in the Eurofighter.

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