Turkey formally decides to buy US made F-35 fighter aircraft

Turkey formally decides to buy US made F-35 fighter aircraft

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey formally decides to buy US made F-35 fighter aircraft

This July 2011 photo shows a U.S. Air Force soldier watching an F-35 aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Turkey has decided to renew its air forces with the Lockheeed Martin-made F-35 fighter jets. AP photo

Turkey’s top decision-making body yesterday paved the way Turkey’s formal participation in a U.S.-led program for the production of next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II fighter aircraft.

“The defense industry executive committee has authorized the Undersecratariat for the Defense Industry [SSM, Turkey’s procurement agency] to conduct talks for the aircraft’s purchase order,” the committee said in a statement after its meeting. The committee’s members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Neçdet Özel and procurement chief Murad Bayar.

SSM and Lockheed Martin, the plane’s main manufacturer, now are expected to sign a formal document for the sale of the first two aircraft. This decision enables Turkey to begin the reception of the aircraft in 2015. Turkey is a member of the F-35 consortium but earlier had not been committed officially to buy the aircraft. It plans to operate around 100 aircraft eventually.

Other members of the consortium include the U.S., Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Norway and Denmark. But there are other countries that would buy the aircraft that are not members of the consortium, including Israel. A recent decision by Japan to buy the F-35 has been a major boost for this aircraft program. Japan and Israel are expected to receive deliveries in 2016.

Textron copters for police

The committee also has chosen the U.S. Bell Helicopter Textron as the main producer of the Turkish police force’s next light helicopter type.

The committee’s decision came at a time when the Turkish police prepare to assume a larger role in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Security Directorate will buy up to 15 light helicopters in a first batch to bolster the force’s capabilities.
Bell was competing against Italy’s AgustaWestland and Eurocopter Deutschland, the European Eurocopter’s German arm. Bell later is expected to manufacture more light helicopters for the Turkish police force in follow-up batches. The company also is expected to cooperate in the production with the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), Turkey’s state-owned aerospace company.

The Turkish Security Directorate’s present helicopter fleet is made up of mainly U.S.-made MD600 light helicopters, which are getting older and more difficult to operate. The new helicopters should better perform police tasks, including tracking suspected criminals and intervening in incidents that could erupt during mass demonstrations, industry sources said.

The committee also decided that SSM would buy 10 Anka unmanned aerial vehicles from TAI. After the first three tests of the vehicle ended with crash-landings, the final three flight tests held recently were successful. TAI already would have delivered three Ankas to the military this year, but the committee’s decision paves the way for the serial production of the 10 platforms.