Turkish firms have continued to produce parts of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter jets despite a ban by the US. The country was expelled from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jet Program in 2019 after it went against the US’ warnings to purchase the S-400 air defense system from Russia.
The US believes that the F-35 fighters cannot co-exist with any Russian intelligence-collection platform that could be used against the fighters. Turkey was officially banished from the program after receiving the first parts of the S-400s, also known as “stealth killer”.
On December 14, the US had imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries for the purchase of the S-400s along with a ban on all US export licenses.
Presidency of Defense Industries, also known as SSB, is a government body tasked with managing Turkey’s defense industry and supply of technology.
However, despite the sanctions, Turkey continued to produce parts of the fifth-generation fighter jets.
SSB chairman İsmail Demir, said, “What they did on the F-35 was even against their domestic law. Our legal work continues. Turkey has always met its responsibilities as a partner of the program. Turkish companies are currently continuing to produce parts (of F-365 jets).”
Demir, while speaking to the media, allayed fears of the US sanctions harming the ongoing projects as the number of direct procurements carried out by Turkey’s Defense Industries Presidency is minimal.
He said SSB doesn’t have much to purchase directly. “As SSB, we define a project that our security forces need, mature it, tender it, hand it to the main contractor and then follow up. In this process, our main contractors also make direct purchases,” Demir maintained.
He claimed these companies are not covered by the sanctions. “This decision does not mean sanctions on Turkey, they target the SSB, me and three of my friends from the team,” said Demir.