Gulf country in running to buy Turkey’s F-35s after U.S. suspends delivery

There is a potential that a ‘Gulf country’ may buy U.S. F-35 fighter jets whose transfer to Turkey was suspended by Washington this week in retaliation to the arrival of Russian S-400 missile systems, reliable Western defence sources told Ahval.

"There is a potential that a 'Gulf country’ will pick up the contracts that Turkey lost. A country with a good knowledge on aerospace industry and infrastructure. The set of contracts to produce components for the F-35," the sources said.

The first parts of Russian S-400 surface-to-air long range missiles began arriving at Mürted Air base outside the Turkish capital Ankara on July 12. This is followed by a White House statement on July 17 that  U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration would follow through on its threat to curtail Ankara’s participation in the F-35 effort.

“Unfortunately, Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defence systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible,” said the statement. 

The United States has suspended Ankara from the aircraft effort while it initiates the process to formally remove the nation from the programme.

Washington says the S-400s could compromise its Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets, an aircraft Turkey is helping to build and planning to buy. 

Reliable Western sources now believe that a Gulf country may pick up the F-35 contract that Turkey lost.

Yet it is unclear whether a possible deal with a Gulf country will involve purchase of four F-35s that United States planned to deliver to Turkey by November this year .

By now, Turkey, which has also been taking part in the project, has ordered 30 out of a planned 100 US F-35 fighters.

Along with the United States, eight countries, including Turkey, are taking part in the project.

Over time can the United States resume transfer of F-35s?

Though the United States made clear that Turkey will be deprived of F-35s in response to buying the S-400 missile systems, Ankara is speculated not to have lost its faith that if not now in the future Washington may resume the fighter’s delivery.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on July 14 that Russian S-400s to be fully deployable by April 2020.

It is not clear why Turkey will install and make operational the first squadron of S-400s in April 2020, 10 months after the parts of the systems  have already begun arriving.

One likely scenario is that Turkey may be trying to buy time to ease US pressure.