Watch: ‘Turkish’ F-35A lands at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona
WASHINGTON, US — One of the five Turkish F-35A fighter jets seized by the US Air Force has landed at Luke Air Force Base, Maricopa, Arizona. The combat stealth fighter has serial number 18-0002. It is the number that proves that this fighter was produced and intended for the Turkish Air Force.
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By the time Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 JSF program, Lockheed Martin had produced six fighters for Turkey. Five of them have already been assigned and enlisted in the US Air Force. The helicopter, with flight number 18-0002, will serve the 56th Fighter Wing.
Luke Air Force Base is located adjacent to the town of Glendale near Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona. The 56th Fighter Wing is supposed to be the largest fighter air force wing in the world. Future pilots of both the F-16 Fighter Falcon and the F-35 Lightning II are actively trained here.
Dispute over money
Washington and Ankara are arguing over money right now. As we reported at the end of February, Washington has made monetary claims against Ankara. The Pentagon wants to be compensated for the risks and losses that Lockheed Martin suffered after Turkish companies producing parts for the F-35 had their supply contracts terminated.
According to financial leaks, this has made the production of the F-35 more expensive. Washington’s claim comes in response to a financial claim from Ankara. The Turks want to get the $1.4 billion invested in the 100 F-35 fighter jets they were supposed to get. After the US excluded Turkey from the F-35 program, Washington refused to return the amount.
Turkey has purchased the Russian S-400 air defense system. This was the reason why Turkey was excluded from the F-35 JSF program. The reason Turkey bought the S-400 is the cheaper price than what the US offered for its Patriot air defense system.
There was a chance
In recent months, some analysts have suggested that there is still a chance for Turkey to return to the F-35 JSF program. This could happen if Ankara fulfills one of the US conditions set years ago – not to bring the S-400 into operational readiness. Turkey did it, but at the moment it is no longer necessary, even Turkish experts comment.
The S-400 was needed by Ankara until the local industry developed and successfully tested the Hisar family of air defense systems. This air defense system is already in a deep process of development and testing. The Siper SAM, which is part of the overall air defense system, has already been tested and shows excellent results.
Although it cannot be compared to the Russian S-400 system, Sipper has a range of 150 km, which at this stage is a good option for the Turkish defense. According to the Turkish press, however, the Sipper’s radar is superior to that of the S-400. Turkey will soon be able to acquire its first Sipper systems. When this becomes a reality, the S-400 will not be so necessary. It is for this reason that some suggest that Sipper is Turkey’s chance to get back into the “F-35 game” if it first takes the Russian air defense system out of operational readiness.
The F-35 may no longer be needed
Even if Turkey gets a chance to return to the F-35 JSF program, it may not be necessary. Ankara is actively working on its fifth-generation TF-X stealth fighter. At the end of last year, the media released photos of the assembly of the first prototype.
Although Ankara is far from its first stealth fighter of its own, the TF-X is seen as a top priority in Turkey’s defense. However, Ankara has had to contend with US influence over other countries producing aircraft components, engines, and materials. But Turkey was able to get two GE F110 engines from the US because it had pre-ordered them.
Photos shared online show the progress of the TF-X. The body of the aircraft is already assembled. It appears that the TF-X will be powered by two engines. According to sources on the ground, the plane is 20+ meters long. It is because of this characteristic that the Turkish media and observers hastened to compare the Turkish aircraft with the American F-22 Raptor.
By the time Turkey’s participation in the JSF program was terminated, eight Lot 14 F-35A aircraft had been produced. At that time, six more were expected to roll off the production lines.
Washington announced its intention to acquire the Turkish F-35 in mid-2020. These aircraft were never delivered to the Turkish Air Force. For a long time, the US pondered what to do with the fighters already produced. Various rumors sent them to various places, including Greece.
In addition to Luke Air Force Base as the receiver of some of the F-35 inventory for Turkey, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida is the other base that will operate the Turkish-made fighters.
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