On June 21, Lockheed Martin rolled out a first F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jet produced for Turkey. The ceremony took place in Fort Worth, Texas. Then, the F-35A jet was set to be deployed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, to begin training.
“Turkish F-35 pilots and maintainers have arrived at Luke Air Force Base and will begin flight academics soon,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews told CNN.
There is a second F-35A jet built fot Turkey. It’s currently passing flight tests at Fort Worth.
The sides claimed that the June 21 ceremony marked a delivery of the first F-35A jet delivered to Turkey. However, in fact no F-35A jets will arrive Turkey until 2020, according to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“There will be training works until 2020. The arrival of the jets in Turkey will be in 2020,” Cavusoglu said.
Furthermore, under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 adopted on June 18 the delivery of F-35A jets to Turkey can be blocked if Ankara buys Russian-made S-400 air defense systems.
The bill calls on Defense Secretary James Mattis to submit to Congress “a plan to remove the Government of the Republic of Turkey from participation in the F-35 program” as well as list the “steps required to prohibit the transfer of any F-35 aircraft currently owned and operated, by the Government of the Republic of Turkey, from the territory of the United States.”
The 2019 fiscal year stats on October 1, 2018. So, even technically, Lockheed Martin has no legal basis to deliver F-35A jets to Ankara before this date.
Turkey and the US signed a contract on delivery of 100 F-35A jets in 2011. The contract worths about $25 billion.