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Turkey could receive its first F-35 fighters in 2019

The Undersecretary for Defence Industries (SSM) Ismail Demir told the Turkish news broadcaster NTV that the Turkish Air Force would receive its first F-35s in 2019, reports Reuters.

These fighters would from the initial lot of 10 ordered in 2014.

In November 2016, the Defence Industry Executive Committee (SSIK) approved the Turkish Air Force’s order for a second batch of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters. Comprising of 24 fighters, deliveries from the second batch are scheduled to begin 2021 or 2022.

A major partner of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, Turkey could order as many as 114 F-35s.

Notes & Comments:

Turkey joined the JSF program in 2002. Since then, ten Turkish defence industry companies have been involved in the program, including, among others, Alp Aviation, Aselsan, Kale Aerospace, Havelsan, Turkish Aerospace Industries, and Roketsan (in collaboration with Tubitak-SAGE).

Turkey will also be the sole-source supplier of some F-35 components, such as the panoramic cockpit display and landing gear up lock assemblies. As per Lockheed Martin, “engine production and overhaul [of the Pratt & Whitney F135] will take place at the 1st HIBM in Eskisehir.”

The Turkish Air Force plans to replace the F-4 Phantom II with the F-35 in the air-to-ground strike role. In that realm, the Turkish defence industry has been developing specialized hardware, including low radar cross-section (RCS) stand-off range munitions, for the Lightning II. While Turkey is still intent on developing and producing its own next-generation fighter (to supplant its F-16s), the F-35 is poised to be among the Turkish Air Force’s mainstay assets in the future.