Turkey accepts first F-35, but US Senate blocks delivery

Following disquiet in the United States about Turkey’s decision to buy the S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) anti-aircraft system from Russia, the US Senate voted to halt deliveries of the F-35A to Turkey in a vote on June 18. Pentagon officials are concerned Turkey’s close association with Russia on the deal would put the secrets of the F-35 at risk.

The Senate asked Secretary of Defense James Mattis to submit to Congress a plan to remove the Government of the Republic of Turkey from participation in the F-35 programme. The matter is far from settled and the final decision rests with President Trump, but the measure could delay the sale of 100 Lightning IIs or even hold up the whole contract, worth close to $10 billion.

The political developments did not halt the planned handover to the Turkish Air Force of Turkey’s first F-35A, serial 18-0001, at Lockheed Martin’s Forth Worth, Texas, facility on June 21. Current plans call for the first aircraft to be based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona for crew training. Deliveries to 171 Filo at 7 Main Jet Air Base at Malatya-Erhaç are scheduled for November 2019.