Despite US Senate Vote, Turkey Expects F-35 Jets in 2020 – Foreign Minister
While voicing concern over Ankara's deal to purchase advanced air and missile defense systems from Russia, the US Senate has blocked the planned delivery of nearly 100 F-35 fighter aircraft to its NATO ally.
Unfazed by the senators' decision, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that Turkey would still receive the delivery of F-35 fighters at a ceremony in Texas, and that the jets were slated to arrive in Turkey in 2020.
"There will be training work until 2020. The arrival of the jets in Turkey will be in 2020," the foreign minister said when briefing reporters in the southern Antalya province.
Two Turkish Air Force pilots are currently being trained in the US to fly the advanced fifth-generation stealth jetfighters to Turkey.
On Monday, the US Senate approved the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an amendment banning the sale of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets to Turkey, citing Ankara's planned purchase of two batteries of the S-400 air defense missile system from Russia.
Washington is seriously concerned about Ankara's push to buy Russian S-400 systems.
In February, an unnamed US official told the Turkish newspaper Haberturk that this could "negatively influence the interoperability of NATO" and that the White House may introduce punitive measures in response.
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell earlier warned that the purchase by Ankara of the S-400 missiles from Russia could reflect negatively on Washington's decision to supply the F-35s to its NATO ally.
Turkish officials have responded to Washington's pressure by saying that Ankara does not accept sanctions from NATO partners when discussing deliveries of the Russian S-400 systems.
The F-35 jets, to be deployed at the 7th Main Jet Base Command in Turkey's eastern Malatya province, will replace the country's aging fleet of F-4 and F-16 planes.
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