Turkey to order first two F-35 fighter jets

Turkey to order first two F-35 fighter jets

ANKARA – Reuters
Turkey to order first two F-35 fighter jets

US Air Force handout photo of Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II fighter jet. REUTERS/US Air Force

Turkey has decided to order two F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp, the government said on May 6.

It will be the first order of Turkey’s pre-announced plan to purchase 100 F-35 jets for $16 billion, which had been expected to begin next year.

The statement released after Defense Industry Executive Committee Meeting, which convened under leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Turkey’s commitment to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program “continues strong as ever.”

“In this context, Turkey continues her forecast of the acquisition of 100 F-35A aircraft as planned and declared previously.”

Lockheed Martin, which has a market capitalization of more than $52 billion, welcomed the news.
“This decision confirms the value of acquiring a 5th Generation fighter capability and is testimony to the Turkish Government’s confidence in the program,” it said in a statement.

The program, the Pentagon’s most expensive arms development project, is about 70 percent over budget and years behind schedule, having been plagued by technical problems.

Skeptics say it still faces big challenges, including completing the software needed to integrate weapons on the jet.

The top defense industry decision making body has also announced the decision to kick off contract negotiations with the engineering company Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret over the procurement of the construction of the third and fourth national ships as part of the MİLGEM program.

The committee canceled the contract awarded to the Koç Holding subsidiary RMK Marine to build six corvettes in its September meeting, announcing that the third and fourth ships will be built by the Istanbul naval shipyard.

The annulment of MİLGEM deal was perceived as controversial as the decision came in the wake of prime minister’s political feud with the group.

Koç group was among companies that were slammed by the prime minister for supporting Gezi Park demonstrations that continued throughout the summer in protest at the government’s policies.

Disputed missile deal still in limbo

The Chinese firm which won a provisional $3.4 billion bid to build a missile defense system for Turkey has not yet met all the conditions of the tender and Ankara may consider alternative offers, officials said.

A Russian bid has been revised but remains far higher than other offers, Turkish officials told Reuters late on Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

Awarding the tender to Russia would do little to ally concerns voiced by Turkey’s Western allies when Ankara said in September it had chosen China’s FD-2000 missile defense system.

It was chosen over rival offers from U.S. manufacturer Raytheon Co and Eurosam, which is owned by Franco-Italian missile maker MBDA and France’s Thales.

China had offered the most competitive terms and would allow co-production in Turkey, officials said at the time.

“The talks with China are continuing but an agreement has not yet been reached as the tender conditions have not been completely fulfilled,” one official close to the matter said, without elaborating on what those conditions were. At the end of April a senior Turkish defense official said Ankara had extended the Eurosam and Raytheon bids by a further two months as they were due to expire. But Turkish officials have long said it was not a foregone conclusion that Ankara would end up signing the deal with China.