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US Notifies Turkey of Removal from F-35 Program

Turkey has been removed from the US’ F-35 fighter jet program after its purchase of Russian S-400 missiles. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The United States has now officially given notice to Turkey that Ankara has been removed from its F-35 fighter jet program, according to Pentagon officials.

Turkey had planned to buy 100 F-35s, but the US refused to deliver the four completed jets after the country’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system in August of 2019, which NATO says is a security threat to the Alliance.

However, Turkish contractors continue to make parts for the fifth generation F-35 Lightning II aircraft, despite the US’ implementation of economic sanctions on the Turkish Defence Industries Presidency in December of 2020.

Eight nations included in new F-35 program

The annulment of the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is also now final, paving the way for Turkey to be kicked out of the program. Washington signed a new agreement for the F-35 program with eight other nations, according to the same Pentagon official.

Pentagon Spokesperson Jessica R. Maxwell did not confirm the development in an email to the Turkish newspaper Ahval, but explained “Our position has not changed. The S-400 is incompatible with F-35 and Turkey has been suspended from the program. We continue to move forward with process of formally removing Turkey from F-35 partnership, as announced in July 2019.”

A new Memorandum of Understanding for the fighter jet program has been signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Norway and Denmark, according to Maxwell.

Turkey tested the missiles at a base along the shores of the Black Sea, outside the town of Sinop, in October of 2020.

Lobbyists hired by Turkey

Turkey had reportedly been been trying to get back into the program by hiring lobbyists to speak on its behalf earlier this year.

According to a report on the lobbying news website Foreign Lobby Report in February, Turkey’s state-owned company Defence Industry Technologies had hired the Washington, D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter to lobby for the country to be allowed back into the F-35 stealth jet fighter program.

Before the test, in an answer to questions from interviewers from the publication Sputnik, a State Department spokesperson said “We continue to object strenuously to Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 air defense system, and are deeply concerned with reports that Turkey is continuing its efforts to bring the S-400 into operation.

“Our suspension of Turkey from the F-35 program, in response to the S-400 acquisition, signaled the seriousness with which the Administration approaches this issue,” he noted.

The spokesperson said in conclusion “We continue to stress at the highest levels that the S-400 transaction remains a major obstacle in the bilateral relationship and at NATO, as well as a risk for potential CAATSA sanctions. We are confident that President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan and his senior officials understand our position.”

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