Delivery of the first F-35 fighter jets to Turkey will take place in spite of a number of US congressmen urging the Trump administration to suspend the procurement because of the latter’s decision to buy Russian S-400 advanced air defence systems.
Turkey will take its first delivery of US-made F-35 warplanes on June 21, according to defence sources who spoke to Anadolu Agency.
Two fighter pilots from the Turkish Air Force (TAF) are getting special training in the US, where the delivery of the first plane to Turkey is planned to be completed with a ceremony, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
After the training is completed, and another warplane is delivered, the F-35 jets are planned to be brought to Turkey in September 2019. The trained pilots will fly the two F-35s from the US, accompanied by a refuelling plane.
The delivery of the first F-35 fighter jets will take place in spite of a number of US congressmen who have urged the Trump administration to suspend the procurement because of Turkey's decision to buy Russian S-400 advanced air defence systems.
“If they take such a step at a moment when we are trying to mend our bilateral ties, they will definitely get a response from Turkey. There is no longer the old Turkey,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told private broadcaster CNN Turk in an interview.
In 2014, Turkey placed an order for the first two F-35 jets for the projected fleet of 100 F-35A aircraft and plans to deploy the aircraft by 2019.
The F-35 jets are planned to be deployed at the 7th Main Jet Base Command in Turkey’s eastern Malatya province, where preparations have already begun to replace F-4 aircraft.
The F-35s will replace the ageing fleet of F-4 and F-16 aircraft. Last December, the Pentagon said Italy and Turkey would provide the initial heavy maintenance of the F-35 fighter jets and their engines.
Turkish defence firms’ key role in project
The single pilot and single-engine, fifth-generation JSF/F-35 joint strike fighter stands out as a fighter jet that can perform various missions, such as air-ground assault, reconnaissance, tactics and defence with low visibility.
The warplanes are being produced in three versions: conventional, horizontal landing and departure, short take-off and vertical landing, and carrier-based (F-35C/CV).
The modern F-35 fighter is being developed and built by US defence contractor Lockheed Martin for the US, the UK, Australia, Italy, Norway, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada in a project worth about $400 billion, making it the world's most expensive weapons programme.
In terms of industrial participation, the Turkish defence industry plays an important role in the program as a parts supplier for the F-35 programme.
Ten Turkish firms, including Aselsan, Kale Aviation, Microwave and Electronic Systems (MiKES), Roketsan, and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), are involved in the production of parts and electronic systems and the engine maintenance for the F-35s.