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Why Turkey Was Booted from the F-35 Program

F-35A In Flight
A U.S. Air Force pilot navigates an F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing into position to refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 336th Air Refueling Squadron over the northwest coast of Florida May 16, 2013. The F-35 Integrated Training Center was established at Eglin Air Force Base and was responsible for conducting student pilot training and maintainer training for Airmen, Marines and Sailors responsible for the aircraft.

If Ankara thought President Joe Biden might look to mend fences, the Turks should think again.

While President Donald Trump was often accused of being soft on the NATO partner, and he had once even proclaimed “I am a big fan” of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan – it was still under Trump’s watch that Ankara was ejected from the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program in 2019.

No F-35s for Turkey. Why? 

Turkey found itself on the outside looking in after it went ahead with the purchase of Russia’s S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system despite concerns from NATO leadership that the platform wasn’t compatible with the fifth-generation stealth aircraft, to put it nicely. Specifically, the United States and other F-35 partners also expressed concerns that the Russian-built system could be used to collect data on the Joint Strike Fighter and compromise its edge.

For its part, Turkey has maintained that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and thus does not pose a threat to the alliance.

Biden doesn’t appear eager to reverse course with Turkey, and in fact, the leader of the free world has been quite free in letting Anakra know. This week it was announced that the United States and eight other countries abolished the 2006 deal regarding the F-35 program and signed a new agreement that has prohibited Turkey, which had been one of the main parts suppliers.

“The S-400 is incompatible with the F-35, and Turkey has been suspended from the program. We continue to move forward with the process of formally removing Turkey from the F-35 partnership, as announced in July 2019,” Defense Department spokesperson Jessica Maxwell told Al Arabiya English on Thursday.

However, the status of parts remains an issue, one that hasn’t been resolved. It was in May of last year that a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a Congressional watchdog, warned that the expulsion of Turkey from the program would likely compound an already beleaguered supply chain.

Relations with Turkey aren’t likely to improve either.

President Biden still has yet to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart, even as the U.S. leader has taken time to have phone calls with almost all other major leaders, including NATO partners. Instead, Biden could be seen to be making it clear where he stands on Turkey.

He has made human rights a central theme of his domestic and foreign policy, and Biden has officially recognized the Armenian genocide, under which an estimated one million or more Armenians were killed under the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump had each avoided using the word “genocide” so as not to anger Ankara,

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Josh

    April 26, 2021 at 11:11 am

    This is why outsourcing production of parts amongst the partners was stupid to begin with. But then again, that bad decision making followed the air forces ignorance of pursuing the concept of a single frame that does everything worse and at a higher cost than the variety ofspecialized platforms that preceded the F35. The rest of the DoD is worse off and less capable because of the air force’s asshattery with the F35. All that said… good that we kicked Turkey out. Never should have let them in NATO to begin with, we need to pull everything out of there.

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