Turkey held talks with UK to purchase aircraft carrier

Britain last year offered to help Ankara locally produce vessel after declining to sell one

The Turkish government held consultations with the UK to procure a new or second-hand aircraft carrier last year, but the talks were inconclusive, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Two people familiar with the dealings said the government inquired to purchase a brand new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier or a decommissioned one, but British officials denied that request.

“They have offered to sell the design of an aircraft carrier and provide technical support during the construction in Turkey,” one person said.

Turkey is already building a light aircraft carrier, TCG Anadolu, whose design was based on Spain’s SPS Juan Carlos I (L-61) multipurpose amphibious assault ship.

TCG Anadolu is expected to be launched this year, with the capability to operate short take-off and vertical landing aircraft, like the F-35.

Since Turkey’s removal from the American F-35 programme in 2019 over Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 air defence system, it isn’t clear whether TCG Anadolu would be able to host any warplanes.

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However Ankara is adamant about having its own aircraft carrier. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly stated since last year that Turkey would locally design and build an aircraft carrier. “It will carry us into another league,” he said last month during a ship launch ceremony.

“After the consultations with the British government, Turkey has decided to build its own ship, instead of purchasing it,” the second person familiar with the issue said.

A UK Department of International Trade spokesperson neither denied nor confirmed whether said consultations have taken place.

“As close NATO allies, the UK and Turkey have a longstanding and strong bilateral defence relationship based on cooperation and collaboration,” the spokesperson said in a written response to MEE. “The UK and Turkey hold regular discussions on a range of defence and security issues. We do not comment on the details of these discussions.”

Read more: Middle East Eye