F-35 Fighters: US, Turkey To Negotiate Possible Reacquisition Of World’s ‘Most Powerful’ Stealth Jets

Turkish and US officials will meet to discuss F-35 jets in the nearest future, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday, adding that preparations for the meeting are underway.

“Negotiations with the United States on the F-35 are ongoing. In the coming days, a meeting will be held in the United States to discuss the F-35 issue, preparations are underway,” Akar said as quoted by the Turkish Anadolu news agency.

Akar added that the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems, as a result of which Turkey was removed from the F-35 program, was a necessity, not a choice.

On January 3, Akar said that Turkey and the United States would discuss the F-35 multirole fighter jet program during a meeting in Washington in early 2022.

File Image: F-35-pilot-training-at-Nellis-AFB

In 2019, the US suspended Turkey’s participation in its F-35 program over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system and later completely removed it from the project.

In October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Washington invited Ankara to buy F-16 fighter jets as a return for its investment in the F-35 program.

Earlier as EurAsian Times reported, Turkey has hired a US law firm to lobby for its reintegration into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program after the US booted Ankara out of the deal following its purchase of S-400 defense systems from Russia.

Turkey had placed an order for receiving more than 100 F-35 stealth fighters and had been manufacturing parts for their production. However, despite continued warnings from Washington, Turkey proceeded with the purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia. Subsequently, the US expelled Ankara from the F-35 program in 2019.

For Ankara, the acquisition of the S-400 missiles was the biggest roadblock to reaching a pact with Washington. The Pentagon has been of the view that the F-35 fighters cannot co-exist with a Russian intelligence-gathering platform, which it believes, could be used against the fighters.

Known as “stealth killers”, the S-400s are touted as the only defense systems in the world capable of neutralizing the stealth technology possessed by the F-35 fighter jets.

s-400 Missile
File Image: S-400 Missile

Now, in order to further aid its potential return to the F-35 deal with the US, Ankara had employed a law firm, Arnold & Porter, for “strategic advice and outreach” to the US authorities, in a six-month contract worth $750,000.

According to the filing notes of Arnold & Porter, it has pledged to “continually monitor export controls and trade sanctions that may be relevant and explain any said sanctions”.

The contract, which took effect on February 1, 2021, was signed with Ankara-based SSTEK Defence Industry Technologies, owned by the Turkish Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB), Ankara’s main defense industry authority.

“(Arnold & Porter will) advise on a strategy for the SSB and Turkish contractors to remain within the Joint Strike Fighter Program, taking into consideration and addressing the complex geopolitical and commercial factors at play,” said the contract.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier said that Ankara would seek compensation for its expulsion from the F-35 program. Erdogan hinted at this discussion possibly happening during a meeting with US President Joe Biden on the margins of a G20 meeting next month.

This discussion is likely to mention the $1.4 billion payment that Ankara made to Washington before getting ousted from the program.

“We made a $1.4 billion payment, what will become of that?” Erdogan was quoted as saying. “We did not – and do not – earn this money easily. Either they will give us our planes or they will give us the money.”