Washington notifies Ankara of Turkey's removal from F-35 fighter jet programme

(Updated with a Pentagon statement to Ahval in the fifth paragraph)

The United States has officially notified Turkey that it has been removed from the F-35 fighter jet programme, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday, citing a Pentagon official.

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.

But Turkish contractors continue to manufacture parts for the fifth generation jet, despite the country’s removal from the programme and the implementation of U.S. sanctions on the Turkish Defence Industries Presidency (SSB) in December.

Washington has signed a new agreement for the programme with other eight signatories, the Pentagon official said, after the annulment of the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Jessica R. Maxwell, Pentagon Spokesperson, in an email to Ahval, did not confirm the news, but said, "Our position has not changed. The S-400 is incompatible with F-35 and Turkey has been suspended from the program. We continue to move forward with process of formally removing Turkey from F-35 partnership, as announced in July 2019."

The United States, United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Norway and Denmark have signed a new MOU in a development that has been shared with Ankara, the official said. 

Turkey had been planning to buy 100 F-35s, but the United States has refused to deliver the four completed jets after the country’s expulsion from the programme.

Ankara had been working to get back into the programme by hiring lobbyists in Washington earlier this year.

Turkey’s state-owned Defence Industry Technologies (SSTEK) hired Washington-based law firm Arnold & Porter for lobbying efforts to get back into the F-35 stealth jet fighter programme, lobbying news website Foreign Lobby Report said in February.