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F-35 Turkish Air Force

By 2019 Turkey had ordered 30 F-35s, four of which were at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where they were used for pilot training. The USA announced 01 April 2019 that it had suspended "deliveries and activities" under Turkey's procurement of the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, in response to Ankara's plans to buy Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system. "We very much regret the current situation facing our F-35 partnership with Turkey, and the DoD is taking prudent steps to protect the shared investments made in our critical technology," Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers said in a statement, referring to the Department of Defense. "Should Turkey procure the S-400, their continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk."

Following protracted efforts to purchase the more expensive Patriot air defense systems from the US with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 air defense system. Summers said the Pentagon is currently developing additional sources to replace the Turkish-produced F-35 components. Turkey makes parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays.

“There are about 800 parts that Turkey makes for the F-35, and of them, very few are sole source,” a person with direct knowledge of the US position told Reuters. Sole source parts from Turkey can be replaced by contractors who had previously bid to make them. Replacing or finding substitutes for the Turkish components would slow production for a three-month period at the Lockheed Martin facility that builds the jets. The center fuselage produced in Ankara could be made by Northrop Grumman Corp, which already makes them in California.

Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on 28 March 2019 introduced a bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey until our government certifies that Turkey will not accept delivery of Russia’s S-400 air defense system. “Turkey is an important NATO ally and willing partner in addressing a number of US national security priorities,” said Lankford. “It’s concerning that Turkey would seek close defense cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and US interests at every turn."

“Make no mistake – the Kremlin is an adversary of the United States and many of our NATO allies. The prospect of Russia having access to U.S. aircraft and technology in a NATO country, Turkey, is a serious national and global security risk,” said Shaheen. “Turkey is a critical ally, but until President Erdogan forgoes his perplexing efforts to acquire the S-400 air defense system, not a single F-35 aircraft should be delivered to Turkey. This bill makes it clear that NATO’s integrity, interoperability, and security is a top foreign policy concern across all branches of the U.S. government. As such, this bipartisan bill will help ensure the safety and security of the United States and our transatlantic community.”

Two F-35s have already been delivered to Turkish custody, and were currently at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where Turkish pilots were training with the aircraft. These jets were scheduled to be transferred in November 2019. Two more jets are expected to be delivered soon. Under the US-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey was initially expected to purchase 100 [possibly 116] aircraft. Turkey was scheduled to begin receiving the aircraft in 2019. Turkey’s President Erdogan announced during a December 2018 rally that Turkey will receive 120 F-35s, an increase over the 100-aircraft requirement previously announced. The additional aircraft could be F-35Bs, in which Turkey has shown keen interest as part of its naval ambitions to operate two aircraft carriers.

Turkey will get the delivery of the first pair of F-35 fighter the Pentagon said on 20 June 2018 amid the bipartisan opposition from both chambers of the U.S. Congress. “Lockheed Martin will hold a rollout ceremony for Turkey this Thursday in Fort Worth, and the two jets will follow-on to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona at a later date,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews told CNN. “Turkish F-3 pilots and maintainers have arrived at Luke Air Force Base and will begin flight academics soon,” CNN quoted him as saying.

The U.S. Senate approved a bill on 18 June 2018 that could open the way for blocking or slowing down the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey amid a number of unresolved disputes that had strained bilateral relationship over the past few years. Both Senate and the House of Representatives had legislation that envisaged blocking delivery of the F-35s to Turkey. The Senate would prevent the transfer until Pentagon devised a plan to remove Turkey from the joint program.

The FY2019 Senate Defense Authorization Act reported issued 05 June 2018 noted that "The Republic of Turkey is a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally and critical strategic partner of the United States. The committee recognizes that the United States-Turkey alliance remains essential for deterring and countering Russian aggression, countering Iranian malign influence, and combating terrorism, all of which are priorities of the new National Defense Strategy. ... However, the committee remains concerned about a number of issues, which threaten to undermine the foundation for a strong and sustainable United States-Turkey alliance. For example, Turkey’s purchase of the S–400 air defense system from the Russian Federation would be incompatible with Turkey’s commitments as a NATO ally. Not only would the purchase put billions of dollars into the Russian military industrial complex and give more profits to Vladimir Putin’s corrupt network of kleptocrats...

"Beyond defense, there are other concerning issues that have a negative impact on United States-Turkey relations. The committee has serious concerns about cases against U.S. citizens who have been arrested under Turkey’s state of emergency, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, and calls for their immediate release. The committee also remains disturbed by the violence that took place outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. on May 16, 2017, and believes the perpetrators should be brought to justice under United States law. More broadly, the committee is concerned by indications of deteriorating respect for human rights and the rule of law in Turkey....

"The committee recommends a provision that would prohibit the transfer of title for any F–35 aircraft to the Government of the Republic of Turkey until such time as the Secretary of Defense submits to the appropriate congressional committees a plan to remove the Government of the Republic of Turkey from participation in the F–35 program, to include industrial and military aspects of the program.

"The committee continues to monitor with concern the trajectory of the U.S.-Turkey relationship. The committee is aware that Turkey plans to buy a large number of F–35s and is a program partner eligible to become a supplier to the global F–35 fleet. However, the announced purchase by Turkey of the Almaz-Antey S–400 system represents the latest in a troubling series of events affecting relations between the government of Turkey and the United States. The committee is concerned that further deterioration in the relationship between the United States and Turkey could result in disruption of cooperative programs, such as the F–35."

On July 11, 2002, the Under Secretary for Defense Industries of the Turkish Ministry of Defense signed a $175 million memorandum of understanding (MOU) for Turkish partnership in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) systems development and demonstration (SDD) phase. Turkey had taken part in the JSF's concept demonstration phase (CDP) to begin its association through foreign military sales for $6.2 million. As a CDP partner Turkey gained significant insight into the program concepts and requirements definition and participated in various capabilities modeling and simulation events. Included in these efforts was a life cycle cost control study, an important area of consideration for the Turkish Air Force that examined the changes to Air Force logistics that should be accomplished to support their JSF aircraft. As a Level III partner, Turkey will participate over the the 10 years of the systems development and demonstration phase.

On 12 December 2006, the Defence Industry Executive Committee selected F-35 as the Turkish Air Force’s future combat aircraft and decided for Turkey to participate in the JSF Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development (PSFD) Phase by signing the PSFD MOU. PSFD Phase will cover the entire service life of the F-35 aircraft beginning from the very first production. The MOU document has been signed by Minister of National Defence Vecdi GÖNÜL on 25 January 2007 at the Pentagon.

As of 2011 Turkey was one of eight countries [the UK, Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Norway, and Australia] partnered with the United States on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. At that time Turkey planned to purchase up to 116 F-35s,90 for delivery over a 10-year period (initially estimated as 2014-2023, but probably revised to 2019-2030), that were to be jointly developed and/or assembled by firms of the various JSF partners. Turkey's cost would be at least $11 billion and could exceed $15 billion, given continued cost growth in the program. A final purchasing decision could be made in 2011.

Turkish companies had received contracts to do substantial work that Jane’s estimated could result in revenue between $5 billion-$6 billion over 20 years, including a TAI contract with Northrop Grumman to serve as a second-source production center for up to 400 center fuselages, and a joint venture between U.S. firm Pratt and Whitney and Turkey’s Kale Group to manufacture parts for the JSF's F135 engines. An initial long term agreement was signed between TUSAS Aerospace Industries, Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corporation to produce composite parts and subassemblies for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter on 14 June 2005. The agreement covers production of composite parts and subassemblies for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The ultimate target for industrial return is above 70 % of the total Program cost. SSM is working to improve the current level of Turkish industrial participation in coordination with the US and other foreign suppliers. For this purpose, SSM and LM signed a Letter of Intent and Industrial Participation Plan on 6 February 2007 in Ankara. Furthermore, the JSF Turkish Industry Coordination Team, assigned by SSM, is in charge of enhancing the communication between Turkish companies and foreign suppliers and pursuing potential opportunities in the Program. Besides a fund has been allocated for the purpose of supporting the capabilities of Turkish companies. In the meantime analyses have been carried out with the prime contractor to determine whether or not it is feasible to achieve the required level of of the competence in technical and logistic fields.

Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) on 26 April 2018 introduced a bill to prevent the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey. The bill would also block Turkey’s role as a maintenance depot for the aircraft. On April 19, Lankford and Shaheen announced their decision to pursue targeted sanctions against Turkish officials in the Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs spending bill. On April 20, Tillis and Shaheen led a 66 Member letter to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, demanding the release of Andrew Brunson.

The measure comes at a time of deteriorating relations between the United States and Turkey over American backing for Kurdish fighters in north Syria. Turkey started operation Olive Branch in Syria in late January with an alleged aim of pushing back Kurdish militants, known as the YPG, from the city of Afrin and surrounding areas. The Turkish military finally captured Afrin’s central neighborhood after more than two months of fighting, which inflicted relatively heavy losses on its ranks. The United States and its European allies, who support the Kurds, have criticized the operation. Turkey, however, has vowed to press ahead with attacks on positions of the YPG, which it sees as an arm of the outlawed militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) “Senators Shaheen and Tillis have worked diligently with me and others in Congress to address America’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Turkey,” said Lankford. “I applaud our State Department for their ceaseless work to improve the US-Turkey relationship, but President Erdogan has continued down a path of reckless governance and disregard for the rule of law. Individual freedoms have been increasingly diminished as Erdogan consolidates power for himself, and Turkey’s strategic decisions regrettably fall more and more out of line with, and at times in contrast to, US interests. These factors make the transfer of sensitive F-35 technology and cutting-edge capabilities to Erdogan’s regime increasingly risky. Furthermore, the Turkish government continues to move closer and closer to Russia, as they hold an innocent American pastor, Andrew Brunson, in prison to use him as a pawn in political negotiations. The United States does not reward hostage-taking of American citizens; such action instead will be met with the kind of punitive measures this bill would enact.”

“Given my steadfast commitment to NATO and the transatlantic alliance, it is with regret that our relationship with Turkey has reached a point where we must consider severing defense and business ties in order to free American hostages held in Turkey,” said Shaheen. “Turkish President Erdogan’s choice to take hostages and imprison innocent Americans, to try to gain leverage over the United States, is egregious and unlawful. Erdogan and his government must abide by the rule of law within his own country and abroad, and release Pastor Andrew Brunson and other Americans unlawfully held in Turkey. There must also be an immediate end to the harassment and detainment of locally-employed staff at the U.S. mission. Until that occurs, I’ll continue to join with Senators Lankford and Tillis to call for punitive action, including blocking the transfer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

“Turkey has long been a vital NATO ally and America understands the unique national security threats it faces; however, denying the rights of law-abiding Americans undermines the relationship between our two countries. The Erdogan government should understand that Congress will pursue measures to protect the interests of American citizens, including stopping the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey.”

Shaheen expressed “regret” that relations with their NATO ally had reached this point, but said “Erdogan’s choice to take hostages and imprison innocent Americans, to try to gain leverage over the United States, is egregious and unlawful.”

US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell earlier warned that Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 missiles from Russia could reflect negatively on Washington’s decision to supply the F-35 fifth generation fighter jets to its NATO ally.

"As for the statements made by the US, this is the case of the presidents of two serious countries [Russia and Turkey] signing the agreement we are talking about. [S-400 and F-35] are two different things. We are partners with the US on the F-35 and we will continue our cooperation on both tracks. We are a sovereign state and we make decisions, which are in the best interests of our country,” Turkish Undersecretary for the Defense Industry Ismail Demir told Russian journalists on the sidelines of the Eurasia Airshow in Antalya.

The United States has warned Turkey that its planned purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system would put at risk Ankara’s participation in the F-35 jet program and could lead to Washington imposing sanctions on Ankara, US Department of State spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a press briefing. "We've clearly warned Turkey that its potential acquisition of the S-400 will result in a reassessment of Turkey's participation in the F-35 program and risk other potential future arms transfers to Turkey, as well as lead to potential sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act," Palladino said on 05 March 2018. Palladino noted that the US position regarding Turkey potentially obtaining S-400 systems has not changed and Washington would like to work collaboratively on the issue of air defence systems with Turkey.

US General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of the United States European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he doesn't recommend delivering F-35 jets to Ankara if it doesn't abort the S-400 missile defence deal with Russia. Scaparrotti noted that he, as a military officer, doesn't advise allowing the top US jets to be used in countries that operate Russian military systems, especially air defence systems. "If they accept the S-400 and establish it within Turkey, there is an issue […] that has to do with the F-35. It presents a problem to all of our aircraft, but specifically the F-35. My best military advice would be that we don't follow through with the F-35[delivery], flying it or working with an ally that's working with Russian systems, particularly air defence systems", he said.

The US' F-35 fighter jet program is "doomed to complete failure" if Turkey's contributions are excluded, Turkey's president warned on 30 Apri 2019. "Turkey did not and will not accept any impositions in the defence realm, just as in the areas of politics, diplomacy and the economy," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the 14th International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF'19) in Istanbul. He decried attempted "impositions" concerning the F-35s, referring to the US threats to cancel the sale over Turkey buying Russian S-400 missile defence. "We think that those who try to exclude us on an issue where we are a project and production partner can’t see beyond the end of this. "I am saying explicitly that the F-35 project is doomed to complete failure if Turkey is excluded," Erdogan said.

On 17 July 2019 the White House announced that "Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible. The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities. The United States has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defense solutions to meet its legitimate air defense needs, and this Administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the U.S. PATRIOT air defense system. Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and NATO Ally for over 65 years, but accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO Allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems. This will have detrimental impacts on Turkish interoperability with the Alliance. The United States still greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey. As NATO Allies, our relationship is multi-layered, and not solely focused on the F-35. Our military-to-military relationship is strong, and we will continue to cooperate with Turkey extensively, mindful of constraints due to the presence of the S-400 system in Turkey."

Ellen Lord, defense undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment, told reporters about half-billion dollars would be required it cover "the cost of finding and setting up U.S. suppliers to make the 900-plus components currently made by ten Turkish manufacturers." She said "The United States is spending between $500 and $600 million in non-recurring engineering in order to shift the supply chain... We are proceeding with a very orderly wind down through March 2020, so we expect minimal impact to the program."

"We call on the United States to reverse this decision. It's a mistake that will cause irreparable damage to our strategic relations," a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on 18 July 2019. "This unilateral step is incompatible with the spirit of alliance and does not rely on any legitimate justification.... Excluding Turkey, one of the main partners from the F35 program is unfair, and the claim that S-400 system will weaken the F-35s is invalid." Turkey will try to solve the problem with the United States on the delivery of F-35 fighter jets in a "reasonable and sensible" way, Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar said 09 December 2019. "If this is not possible, everyone should know that we will naturally seek other quests," he said in an interview with semi-official Anadolu Agency. Turkey has paid some of the debt to the U.S. and should get part of the delivery, but the aircraft were still kept in the United States, he said.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:03:53 ZULU