Turkish Air Force have for long been a user of US aircraft and has been very close to NATO, since entering NATO in 1952.
But this cooperation has not been without problems. Although both Greece and Turkey are part of NATO, the relationship between them have been very tense. In 1974 the Turkish Armed Forces occupied northern Cyprus in a move to stop the Greece military junta to do the same. Cyprus was then for many years Sweden:s largest international military mission. Approximately 25.000 Swedish soldiers and police officers have taken part in the UN-led mission between 1964 and 1993. The ongoing dispute regarding the territorial borders with Greece in the Aegean Sea has not been solved. The financial problems in Greece could have to possible futures. 1 - Greece will reduce the military budget OR 2 - A new military coup could occur with support from the population that has lost trust in their government and in EU.
Turkey is also since 1984 engaged in a low-intensity war against the Kurdish guerrilla, PKK. In 2008 Turkish troops entered Iraq in a campaign to eliminate the Kurdish guerrilla camps located in the Kurd-dominated northern parts of Iraq. Most probably this move was not sanctioned by USA due to the fact that it could destabilize the Kurdish Iraq. This part of Iraq has been a close ally to USA during the Iraq war 2003 onward.
USA and NATO only tolerates the military actions in Iraq due to the importance of Turkey. Turkey is a cultural bridge between the western and the Muslim world, which is very important in the war against terror. The conflicts in northern Africa has made it even more important to have an ally in the region. Turkey also has a geographical strategic position between Europe and the Middle East. But Turkey have a carte blanche from USA/NATO in choosing their methods for how to "win" the war against PKK?
EU also put pressure on Turkey. Before Turkey become a member of EU, the border problems between Turkey and Greece as well as the Kurdish situation must be solved.
Turkey is today very dependent on buying weapons from USA and Europe to fight their war against PKK and at the same time be ready for any possible attacks from Greece (however unlikely they are).
But maybe Turkey has decided to leave the USA-only strategy when it comes to buying fighters for their Air Force? There are ongoing discussions with South Korea as well as Sweden regarding future cooperation in aircraft development.
Turkey has held separate talks with aeronautical officials from South Korea and Sweden for possible cooperation in the design, development and production of a new fighter aircraft in the next decade, a senior procurement official said.
"The companies are South Korea's Korea Aerospace Industries, or KAI, and Sweden's Saab," the official said.
KAI is the manufacturer of several military and civilian aircraft and satellites and is planning to produce the KF-X fighter aircraft. Saab makes the multirole fighter JAS 39 Gripen.
But Turkish officials privately say they want to develop another future jet fighter with a country other than the United States to reduce Turkey's overdependence on Washington. Most of Turkey's fleet of F-16 fighters, being modernized by Lockheed Martin, and the planned future F-35s are open to U.S. technological influence. Only its older F-4 aircraft, modernized by Israel, and its oldest F-16s, being modernized by Turkey itself, are free from this influence, the officials said. But these older aircraft are expected to be decommissioned around 2020. As part of efforts to select a new fighter, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has been tasked to determine the specifications of the new fighter by the end of 2012.">But Turkish officials privately say they want to develop another future jet fighter with a country other than the United States to reduce Turkey's overdependence on Washington. Most of Turkey's fleet of F-16 fighters, being modernized by Lockheed Martin, and the planned future F-35s are open to U.S. technological influence. Only its older F-4 aircraft, modernized by Israel, and its oldest F-16s, being modernized by Turkey itself, are free from this influence, the officials said. But these older aircraft are expected to be decommissioned around 2020.
As part of efforts to select a new fighter, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has been tasked to determine the specifications of the new fighter by the end of 2012.
Turkey late last year held an initial round of talks with KAI on this matter, but the South Koreans offered to share only 20 percent of the project with Turkey, with another 20 percent going to Indonesia while keeping the remaining 60 percent for themselves. Turkey wants an equal share in the development and was quick to reject this offer.
For now the possible cooperation between Korea/Sweden and Turkey will not replace the F-35. But can Turkey afford operating the F-35 at the same time as anything else? Maybe Turkey have to decide between continue to buy american aircraft or have a local aircraft industry?
Turkey has for many years upgraded their aircraft with help from Israel. But after last years incident during the Israeli attack on the Gaza convoy, the diplomatic climate is sub-zero and the Turkish government most probably seek other partners. Since USA is very close to Israel, this could be another explanation to why Turkey want to be more independent from US technology.
What will the Swedish lawmakers say about exporting weapons to Turkey? Is the war against PKK sanctioned by Sweden? EU did put PKK on the terrorist list after 9-11, but what about today? In many Swedish newspapers there are articles regarding the Turkish treatment of the Kurdish people. In Sweden it is by law forbidden to export weapons to a country involved in war. But is the campaign against PKK a "war"? What will he Swedish Anti-War movement say? Any sales of Gripen to Turkey could result in protests in Sweden. These protests could be escalated due to the number of Turkish immigrants living in Sweden.
If Turkey buy the Gripen it could also result in a interesting situation with Swedish-built Saab Gripen in Turkey vs Swedish-built Saab Erieye Command & Control aircraft in Greece. In case of a future conflict between Turkey and Greece it could become a very political sensitive situation for Sweden and Saab to solve.