Turkey’s first F-35

The first F-35A Lightning II for Turkey on its maiden flight at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas on May 10.
Matt Ellis

The first Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK or Turkish Air Force) F-35A Lightning II took to the air at Lockheed Martin’s Air Force Plant 4 at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas on May 10. The F-35A, serial number 18-0001 (c/n AT-01) from low-rate initial production Lot 11. In Turkish the aircraft is referred to as the F-35A MTU or Musterek Taaruz Ucagi meaning Joint Strike Fighter.

The day before the first flight, the Turkish government’s Undersecretary for Defence Industries, Professor Dr İsmail Demir, said the first machine would be delivered to Turkey on June 21, 2018, with more to follow next year.

Turkey, a NATO ally and partner in fighting ISIS, has ordered a total of 100 F-35As. The first batch of 14 are already paid for. A total of 30 F-35As in the Block 3F configuration are scheduled for delivery to the THK by the end of 2022. The deal is controversial because of Turkey’s political stance under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A bi-partisan group of US senators introduced a bill on April 26 to block delivery of the aircraft in protest at the country’s human rights record and “disregard for the rule of law, diminishment of individual freedoms, consolidation of power”. The senators also allege Turkey’s strategic decisions have fallen out of line with US interests.