Turkey Held A Bizarre Ceremony To Celebrate Its F-35s â" But It Might Not Even Get Them
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Turkey held a flamboyant and bizarre ceremony to celebrate its first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but if the U.S. Senate has its way, those two fighters will be the only ones they get.
Turkey, as well as a host of other U.S. allies, are awaiting the F-35 to replace aging fleets of Cold War-era warplanes and bring them into a networked, futuristic style of aerial combat.
Upon receiving its first-ever F-35s from the U.S., Turkey held a memorable celebration that gave viewers a âtaste of Turkeyâs rich heritage and diverse culture,â with a long intro song that depicted skydivers, birds, and ended with a man dresse d as a bird or plane doing an aviation-themed dance.
But after the curtain rolled back on Turkeyâs single F-35, and Turkeyâs military leaders expressed hope for a powerful and networked new air force, a major question remains: Will Turkey even get its promised 100 F-35s?
Turkey took part in building the F-35, as did many countries. Itâs an important NATO ally positioned as a bridge between east and west. The U.S. bases airmen and nuclear weapons in Turkey, but lately, the relationship has soured.
There are deep concerns in the U.S. over Turkeyâs human rights record, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan authoritarian regime, and Turkeyâs recent interest in Russian missile defenses.
Turkey is on track to buy Russiaâs S-400 missile defense system.
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider that NATO countries âdonât want to be networking in Russian systems into your air defensesâ as it could lead to âtechnology transfer and possible compromises of F-35 advantages to the S-400.â
Related: How The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter May Have Benefited from Soviet Technology Â»
If Turkey owned the F-35 and the S-400, it would give Russia a window into NATOâs missile defense network and the F-35âs next-generation capabilities. Basically, as NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, letting Russia patch in would defeat the purpose and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.
For that reason, and human rights concerns, the Senate wrote into its Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that it wanted Turkeyâs F-35s held back.
Lockheed Martin officials said they still expected the sale to go through and the planes to be delivered, but if the House backs up the Senate, and Trump approves, Turkey could be stuck with only two F-35s for a long t ime.
Potentially, Turkey may be persuaded by the U.S. to give up on its S-400 purchase from Russia, but itâs also possible that a scorned Turkey will go through with the purchase and have a single U.S.-made stealth jet networked into Russian technology.
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