Britain and Turkey have agreed to a £100 million ($125.5 million) defense deal that Downing Street hopes will lead to Britain becoming Turkey’s main defense partner.
The agreement to jointly build fighter jets was signed during British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Ankara on Saturday.
In the presence of The Prime Ministers of Turkey and the United Kingdom, BAE Systems and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) signed a Heads of Agreement to collaborate on the first development phase of an indigenous fifth-generation fighter jet for the Turkish Air Force - TF-X.
This announcement builds upon a pre-contract study phase between BAE Systems and TAI, BAE Systems reported.
‘‘BAE Systems is a leader in designing, manufacturing and supporting fighter aircraft and is in an excellent position to contribute technical and engineering expertise and experience of managing complex projects to this key Turkish program. The announcement signals an exciting next step in relations between both Turkey and the UK with the co-operation between BAE Systems and TAI paving the way for a deeper defense partnership. The agreement confirms ongoing collaborative work on the design and development of the aircraft,” said Ian King, BAE Systems Chief Executive.
At its peak hundreds of Turkish and UK engineers will collaborate on the TF-X program helping to support collaboration on the skills, technology and technical expertise required to deliver the program.
Theresa May is the first foreign leader to visit Turkey since Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered a wave of arrests and sackings in the wake of last year’s coup.
British Prime Minister said she and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were deepening their defense links, amid criticism at home that she is putting trade ahead of concerns about the rule of law in Turkey.
“This agreement underlines once again that Britain is a great, global trading nation and that we are open for business. It marks the start of a new and deeper trading relationship with Turkey and will potentially secure British and Turkish jobs and prosperity for decades to come,” Mrs. May said
The deal between Britain’s BAE Systems and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) would see British weapons maker help design Turkish jets and will pave the way for the U.K. to provide future engines, weapons radars and sensors to Turkey, Downing Street said.
Erdoğan said that Turkey and the UK would continue to be in solidarity as NATO two members. Erdoğan also said Turkey and Britain would take an important step on Turkey’s TF-X fighter jet project.
Aljazeera said there are already in place “robust” trade and arms deals between the two countries. “Since 2015, there has been $400 million worth of arms traded to Turkey, and another $60 million following the coup,” it added.
President Erdoğan expressed his aim to increase Turkey’s $15.6 billion of trade volume with UK to $20 billion. Erdoğan reminded that the first step for a strategic partnership between the two countries was taken in 2010, and underlined that cooperation in the energy sector was also possible in addition to defense industry.
The UK was the second-largest destination for Turkish exports in 2015, buying $10.6 billion in goods, according to IMF trade data. Only Germany imports more from Turkey.
May, who arrived in Turkey on Saturday after a trip to the US, visited both countries for the first time as Prime Minister, promoting trade agreements to strengthen her hand in the UK’s negotiations to leave the European Union, or Brexit.