F-35 programme too restrictive, says Turkey’s top defence industry official

There are too many limitations to the F-35 fighter jet programme, which calls for total dependence on United States, Turkey’s top defence industry official Ismail Demir told HaberTürk television on Sunday.

Turkey will fill the F-35 void in its inventory with its domestic-made TF-X fifth generation fighter jet, Defence Industries Presidency (SSB) head Ismail Demir told the network, saying that the aim for the aircraft tol eave the hangar was set for 2024.

Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 Lightning II jet programme in 2019 after Turkey purchased the Russian S-400 air missile systems, which it maintains poses a security threat to U.S. and NATO systems. Turkish contractors continue to manufacture parts for the fifth generation jet, despite Turkey’s removal and the implementation of sanctions on the SSB in December.

The S-400 systems have already been delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and they can be used whenever needed, Demir said during Sunday’s broadcast.

Referring to the recent agreement by Turkey’s state-owned Defence Industry Technologies (SSTEK) with Washington-based law firm Arnold & Porter for lobbying efforts on the F-35 stealth jet fighter programme, Demir said the purpose of the hire was primarily to receive a refund.

SSB-owned SSTEK last month signed a $750,000 deal to hire Arnold & Porter for lobbying efforts to get back into the F-35 stealth jet fighter programme.

Turkey spent over $1.25 billion in the fighter jet programme over two decades since the inception of the F-35 alliance, but has so far been unable to receive a refund despite the fact that Ankara has been excluded from the F-35 alliance.

Turkey continues to produce some of the critical parts of F-35s, Demir said, however the United States has already cut a significant number of over nearly 1,000 parts of the F-35s Turkish defence firms used to produce the aircraft.

Considering the limitations on the F-35s and issues stemming from the jet’s F-35As, and F35Bs models, it might be a positive development that Turkey is out of the F-35 alliance, Demir said.

Demir also highlighted an increase in Turkey’s defence exports while pointing to defence industry products such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) that “grab the most attention abroad.’’