Jul 02 2018

Turkish pilots on schedule to begin F-35 training – Pentagon

Turkish Air Force pilots will soon begin training in the new generation F-35 fighter aircraft despite moves from the U.S. Senate to halt sale of the aircraft to Turkey, Safvan Allahverdi reported for the Turkish state news outlet Anadolu Agency on Monday.

"Turkish F-35 Pilots and maintainers have already arrived at Luke Air Force base," Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning was quoted as saying.

The first F-35 was handed over to Turkish authorities in a rollout ceremony on Jun. 21, in spite of a drive by the U.S. Senate to halt the sale in response to Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia and arrest of Andrew Brunson, a U.S. pastor accused of links to outlawed organisations.

The senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would halt the sales until a report is prepared on how Turkey could be removed from the F-35 supply chain. Turkey currently manufactures several parts for the aircraft.

Having passed the senate, “the bill must now be reconciled with one already passed by the House of Representatives in May and a compromise measure must then be passed by both chambers and signed by President Donald Trump,” wrote Allahverdi.

While the first F-35s of 100 on order have been officially handed over to Turkey, they will remain in the United States for the pilots' training period, and are likely to reach Turkey late next year. 

"The U.S. government has not made a determination on Turkey’s future participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program," Manning said.

“The Senate voted to block. Now the Congress gets a vote, the president gets a vote," Allahverdi quoted another Pentagon spokesperson, Lieut. Col. Mike Andrews, as saying.

"What you asking me is to speculate. So all I can tell you is at the program right now -- they will continue to fly," he added.