The US Air Force is Buying Turkish F-35 Fighters After Countries Removal from JSF Program

It has been speculated for some time that the United States Air Force might start purchasing the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft originally destined for Turkey. Through the official Defense Department’s daily contract announcements, it was confirmed that the United States Air Force will purchase eight F-35A conventional takeoffs and landing aircraft from Turkey.

This comes on the heels of Turkey being kicked out of the Joint Strike Fighter Program. Due to their acceptance of the S-400 Russian Produced air defense system a year ago. The Defense Department felt it was imperative that the F-35 not exist alongside the S-400 system supposing that Russian intelligence would seek to glean information by pairing the two systems together.

Turkey had originally started training its pilots on the first off-the-line fighter at Luke AFB in Arizona. The aircraft, however, was never officially transferred into Turkish custody and since the removal of the country from the JSF program, the fate of the 100 planned F-35s for the country’s airforce remained somewhat of a mystery.

The eight Turkish F-35 fighter jets that the United States will be purchasing will be part of an $862 million contract modification. The deal also includes an additional six F-35As which were built for the Air Force as well as modifications that will bring the Turkish jets over from foreign configuration to native the United States Air Force configuration.

Two F-35 Lightning II’s bank after receiving fuel over the Midwest Sept. 19, 2019. The two aircraft were in route to the 158th Fighter Wing out of the Vermont Air National Guard Base, South Burlington, Vt., the first Air National Guard unit to receive the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Ben Mota)

Deeper inside the contract modification we find that it is using funding from FY 2020 to pay for the jets which will be completed as part of Lot 14. Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon finalized a deal for lots 12 through 14 back in October of 2019 where an agreed-upon price of $77.9 million per jet was decided.

Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, explained that it is unknown what will happen to the 24 Turkish jets that are all in some sort of production stage at the time of the contract modification. Washington and Ankara had not come to an agreement on that part of the modification as of yet.

For FY 2020 Congress gave the Pentagon permission to spend up to $30 million to fly the first six Turkish F-35 fighters to a holding location for storage until the Defense Department could come up with some sort of planned usage. Plans for the fighters by the Senate for FY21 are in the works and it looks like these new provisions in the NDAA would allow the Air Force to operate or even modify the first six Turkish F-35 Fighters.