The Department of Defense (DoD) continues to move forward with plans to deliver F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Turkey on schedule, even as it makes progress on a congressionally mandated report on the U.S.-Turkey relationship, the F-35 program director said Oct. 1.
“I don’t see any indication at this time of any change to the delivery of their 100 jets,” Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 program executive officer, told reporters at a media event at the Joint Program Office (JPO) in Arlington, Virginia. Turkish pilots are already training on two dedicated F-35s stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and two more aircraft are scheduled for delivery next March, he added.
Lawmakers have called for a halt in F-35 deliveries to Turkey as the country, a NATO member state, has imprisoned a U.S. pastor and declared plans to procure the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. DoD and NATO officials have expressed security concerns regarding the operation of such a system on an F-35.
The fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) calls for the Pentagon to freeze deliveries of the aircraft to Ankara until it submits a report on the state of U.S.-Turkish relations and a full review of all defense sales to the country to Congress. That passage was included in the subsequent defense appropriations bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law on Sept. 28. The department is on schedule to issue that report within 90 days, Winter said. The JPO has provided technical, programmatic and operational data to inform the department’s report, he added.
“We stand ready to engage with any change in policy that may occur, but there is no change in policy and we are executing to the extent and support of the NDAA as written,” he said. He noted that the public release of the report will be at the discretion of Congress and the Pentagon.
Turkey remains “a committed partner” in the F-35 program, Winter noted, adding, “they pay all of their cost-shared responsibilities on time [and] their industrial base provides multiple parts on every F-35.”