Turkey has received the first two F-35 jets from the US, but with a catch: the planes will stay in the US until end of 2019 as Turkish pilots are training to fly them and Senate continues attempts to bar Ankara from getting F-35s.
“We are entering a new era altogether, and this also holds true for the Turkish air force,” Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics business area, said at the ceremony held at Lockheed Martin’s plant in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday.
Turkey’s Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Industries Serdar Demirel attended the event, while the US was only represented by local officials, namely Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and state Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Following the delivery ceremony, the two F-35 fighter jets are headed to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where Turkish pilots and technicians will get familiar with the fifth-generation fighter jet. The planes are expected to reach Turkish soil by the end of 2019.
While the Turkish military seems to be optimistic about acquiring the F-35s, US legislators have repeatedly been trying to torpedo the shipment of the fighter jets altogether, citing Ankara’s decision to buy S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia.
Ahead of the “delivery” ceremony, the US Senate passed the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which described the S-400 deal as “sanctionable under current United States law” and envisioned a plan for the “removal of Turkey from the F-35 program.”
Apart from the bill, the Senate issued a resolution expressing its “concerns” over the S-400 purchase, yet again warning Ankara of the potential consequences of doing business with Russia.
Turkey responded angrily to the US legislators’ moves, stating that the Senate’s vote does “not hold value for us,” as the purchase of Russian S-400s was “a done deal.”
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