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F-35 Turkish Air Force

Under the US-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey was expected to purchase 116 aircraft. Turkey was scheduled to begin receiving the aircraft in 2019.

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, Turkeys purchase of the S400 air defense system from the Russian Federation would be incompatible with Turkeys 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 Putins 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 Turkeys 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 ambassadors 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 F35 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 F35 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 F35s and is a program partner eligible to become a supplier to the global F35 fleet. However, the announced purchase by Turkey of the Almaz-Antey S400 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 F35."

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 Forces 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 GNL 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 Janes 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 Turkeys 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 Turkeys 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 Afrins 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 Americas 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 Turkeys 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 Erdogans 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 Erdogans 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, Ill 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 Erdogans 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 Ankaras purchase of the S-400 missiles from Russia could reflect negatively on Washingtons 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.




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