BELFAST — The United Kingdom is not currently in talks with Turkey to support submarine shipbuilding, despite President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently suggesting otherwise.
During a speech in Istanbul on Tuesday, he said that “the UK wants to cooperate with us on the construction of submarines,” per a report from London based news website Middle East Eye. One source told the outlet specifically said the UK was “interested in joint-production of uncrewed submarines with Turkey.”
Erdogan did not share any details of how the potential partnership could work, nor clarify if joint production of shipbuilding is the intent. Regardless, his public comments appear to be out of step with the UK.
A spokesperson for the Royal Navy told Breaking Defense in a Wednesday statement that “no one knows anything of these [Turkish] discussions,” including teams from the UK’s Submarine Delivery Agency, Defence Nuclear Organisation and shipbuilder BAE Systems.
The manufacturer does have defense ties with Turkey after agreeing to support design activity work on the in-development TF-X future fighter jet. Under a joint venture, Britain’s Rolls Royce and Kale Group are also among industry competitors offering engines for the aircraft once it enters production. For the moment, prototype jets are being integrated with General Electric’s F-110 turbofan engine.
Although UK military naval agencies are not in talks about submarine matters, a number of “high level visits to Turkey” from British defense officials have taken place over the last few years, according to Sidharth Kaushal, research fellow at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute defense think tank.
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He said defense cooperation has tightened since the UK lifted arms export restrictions initially imposed on Turkey in 2019 following Ankara’s military operations in northwest Syria. Discussion about Turkey’s particular interest in uncrewed systems, he said, is to be expected.
“The unsurprising bit is Turkey’s talk of developing uncrewed capabilities because, in many ways, they’ve tried to sell themselves as a pathbreaking actor in this area, largely building off the success of the Bayraktar TB-2 [armed UAV],” he said.
“In terms of what Britain would get from co-development with Turkey, that seems more difficult to assess as the Royal Navy has moved some distance in terms of working with industry to develop and procure uncrewed underwater vessels. So it seems that the technology sharing, based on the latest reports, would be more one way than the other.”
The UK’s dismissal of Erdogan’s comments come just a few weeks after the nation last had to tamp down international rumors of defense cooperation. In March, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) claimed it was set to join the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program, which the UK hours later said wasn’t quite true.
Source : BreakingDefense