During a visit by the Turkish President Recep Erdogan to Ukraine, a deal was signed for Ukraine to provide the An-178 to Turkey. This was one of many agreements made between Ukrainian president Zelensky and Erdogan which focused on increasing economic cooperation. The An-178 deal further strengthens the military-industrial relationship between Turkey and Ukraine which has seen a dramatic increase over the last year. In return, Turkey will provide “assistance” (most likely equipment) to Ukrainian land forces.
The An-178 is a relatively small transport aircraft roughly in the same class as the C-130E currently in service with the Turkish Air Force. It is seen as a more economical alternative to expensive Western European and American aircraft. For example, the Turks had signed on for 10 Airbus A400Ms which ended up being delivered stunningly overbudget at around $200 million each. Additionally, Turkish relations with the West have soured greatly due to involvement in Syria. Turkey hasn’t yet mentioned how many An-178s are being purchased but it’s expected to be between 10-15 and will likely be used to gradually replace C-130s in service.
In August of last year, the two nations created a joint venture for the development and production of advanced weapons, specifically unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAVs). Turkey is one of few nations currently producing UCAVs and is one of fewer nations to also be actively employing them. A few months before the creation of the joint venture, Ukraine purchased 6 Bayraktar UCAVs from Turkey making Ukraine the 2nd export customer of the type behind Qatar, a close ally of Turkey. The sale of such advanced systems highlights the Turkish desire to further Ukrainian cooperation. The joint venture quickly bore fruit with the two nations seeing the opportunity to combine each other’s industrial abilities.
While Turkey has had great success with the creation of unmanned systems it has struggled with the indigenous production of turbine engines. Ukraine, since the Soviet era, has had a significant capacity to develop and produce turbines making the two perfect for a combined effort. Back in 2017, Turkey endeavoured to produce the Akinci (previously covered on OVD) a UAV far larger than Turkey has ever produced. With the use of Ukrainian turboprops the project advanced quickly with the first flight of the aircraft taking place in December 2019.
The relationship between Ukraine and Turkey is interesting as many view Turkey to be an ally of Russia due to the sale of S-400 and the ouster of Turkey from the F-35 program. However, they are only friends of convenience as Turkey and Russia have opposing desires for Syria.