US to buy eight of Turkey’s F-35s from Lockheed Martin

The decision comes after Turkey had been expelled from the fighter jet's production program over its purchase of a Russian air defense system.

al-monitor An F-35 fighter jet taxies out for a training mission at Hill Air Force Base on March 15, 2017, in Ogden, Utah.  Photo by George Frey/Getty Images.

Jul 21, 2020

The United States will purchase eight F-35 fighter jets originally produced for Turkey, the Defense Department announced yesterday, in a glimpse of what the Pentagon may intend to do with the undelivered fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

The US Air Force will purchase the F-35s as part of a nearly $862 million contract modification with Lockheed Martin, which built the aircraft for Ankara.

Turkey unveiled its first Joint Strike Fighter delivery in 2018, but the United States expelled Turkey from the F-35 program the following year after Ankara purchased Russia’s S-400 air defense system despite repeated warnings from Washington.

The United States later said other completed aircraft would not be delivered but that Turkey could rejoin the F-35 program if it returns the S-400 to Russia. The dispute marked a low point in relations between the NATO allies. Washington has threatened to sanction Ankara if it activates the Russian-made air defense system.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened late last year to close US access to Turkish air bases at Incirlik and Kurecik in response to a US Senate resolution that recognized the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

US lawmakers last year authorized the military to purchase some of Turkey’s F-35s in the fiscal year 2020, urging that they be updated to match interoperability standards with other US Air Force F-35s.

Eight of Turkey’s F-35s were “realigned” to the US Air Force on Monday, Jessica Maxwell, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Al-Monitor via email. The contract modification also allocated funds for Lockheed Martin to upgrade the aircraft and paves the way for the Air Force to obtain six additional F-35s for a total of 14.

Maxwell did not respond to a request for clarification as to whether the purchase would affect the more than $1 billion Turkey initially put toward joining the F-35 program.

The Pentagon has said it will continue to purchase Turkish-manufactured parts for the F-35 through 2022, despite a rebuke from members of Congress. A US government watchdog agency reported in May that ending the production contracts with Turkey prematurely would exacerbate the F-35s already-deficient supply chain.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

Recommended Articles

Esper, meeting with Gantz, reaffirms commitment to Israel's regional military edge
Al-Monitor Staff | Defense/Security cooperation | Sep 23, 2020
Israeli opposition wants to know: Is there more to UAE deal than meets the eye?
Mazal Mualem | Israeli-Gulf relations | Sep 22, 2020
F-35 deal with UAE could benefit Israeli defense industries
Danny Zaken | Defense/Security cooperation | Sep 22, 2020
Turkey opens investigation after Greek newspaper insults Erdogan
Al-Monitor Staff | Press freedom | Sep 21, 2020
Why UAE’s landmark deal with Israel is bad for Turkey
Amberin Zaman | Israeli-Gulf relations | Sep 17, 2020