Ankara: Trump Vowed to Help Turkey Purchase F-35 Despite Threats from Congress
Notwithstanding threats from the US Congress to halt the shipment of F-35s to Ankara due to its purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems, Lockheed Martin has transferred the first two jets to Turkey. Turkish pilots will now be acquainting themselves with the F-35s at an airbase in Arizona.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu revealed in an interview with the television channel NTV that US President Donald Trump has promised to take steps to resolve the issue with the delivery of F-35s to Turkey, which Congress is trying to block.
"We discussed the F-35 issue with Trump and he promised to look into it and take all the necessary steps. Since his inauguration, Trump has aimed to develop ties with Turkey. So far, despite a few unpleasant reactions coming from the US Senate, there have been no problems regarding the F-35 so far. They have been transferred to us. Cooperation on the project is continuing," he said in the interview.
Cavusoglu also noted that the S-400s pose no threat to NATO, as they were bought for Turkey's security and defense. He added that Ankara had approached Moscow to buy air defense systems because NATO had refused to sell their own to Turkey.
Lockheed Martin delivered the first two F-35 jets to Turkey on June 21. First, they will be delivered to the Fort Worth Airbase, where Turkish pilots will learn to operate them. Their training program will last until November 2019.
After Ankara and Moscow struck a deal on Turkey's acquisition of S-400 air defense systems in December 2017, US lawmakers have been raising concerns regarding the possibility that Russia could use the S-400s to acquire secret data on the F-35. As a result of this concern, Congress passed a bill requiring the Pentagon to file a report on the purported threat to the F-35 before the planes can be delivered to Turkey.
Ankara has been a participant in the development of the F-35 along with several other NATO countries. Under the provisions of the contract, Turkey is slated to buy 100 jets after the development is completed. Ankara has warned Washington against freezing F-35 deliveries, reminding the US that it has fulfilled all the provisions of the original contract.
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