With Turkey and Pakistan finalizing a number of important defence deals, such as the ASELPOD acquisition and Agosta 90B submarine program, some circles in both countries are of the hope that the era of strong bilateral defence relations is finally beginning. This has been an aspiration, especially since the mid-2000s when the two countries embarked to engage in areas such as joint technology development and training.
Sadly, a particularly troublesome political and economic period within Pakistan from 2009 put a heavy dampener on those aspirations, especially on the acquisitions front where the Pakistan Navy’s pursuit of four MILGEM corvettes fell through. Fortunately, the two countries still managed to nurture their ties in the realm of training, with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Turkish Air Force (TuAF) being regular participants at one another’s exercises, such as Anatolian Eagle (Turkey) and Indus Viper (Pakistan).
The summer of 2016 could emerge as a milestone where major procurements and joint-initiatives become a more common sight between Anakara and Islamabad. For example, Pakistan requested $400 million in credit from Turkey to help finance a procurement of four MILGEM-based corvettes. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is also eager to sell its T-129 dedicated attack helicopter to the Pakistan Army. However, as valuable as these programs are on their own terms, their scope would utterly pale in comparison to the prospect of the PAF signing onto the TAI TFX next-generation fighter program.
The idea of this being reality is tenuous or on the weaker side, but a well-placed Pakistani government official reportedly told Turkey’s publicly owned media outlet Anadolu Agency that the two countries were in talks over the TAI TFX. Anadolu Agency even noted that if the program “materialized, it [would] be a flagship project between the two brotherly countries.” It has to be prefaced that government officials from Pakistan say many things, one only needs to look at the news of the PAF’s purported interest in the Sukhoi Su-35 as an example (of what could be wrong with what these officials say). When it comes to the PAF, it is always best to take it from the words of a publicly known PAF official.