Turkey takes delivery of first JSF jets despite congressional opposition

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TEXAS, USA - JUNE 21: An F-35 fighter jet is seen as Turkey takes delivery of its first F-35 fighter jet with a ceremony in Forth Worth, Texas, USA on June 21, 2018. Atilgan Ozdil / Anadolu Agency

Turkey took delivery of its first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets at a ceremony on Thursday in Forth Worth, Texas, despite the opposition of the US Congress.

Officials from the Turkish Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM), Turkish companies involved in the Joint Strike Fighter project and Lockheed Martin representatives attended the ceremony at the Lockheed Martin F-35 facility in Fort Worth.

Turkey has been a partner in the F-35 program since the beginning of 1999. The Turkish defense industry has taken an active role in the production of the aircraft, with Alp Aviation, AYESAS, Kale Aviation, Kale Pratt & Whitney and Turkish Aerospace Industries producing parts for the F-35 fighter jet.

The aircraft is expected to boost the Turkish Air Force with its superior capabilities such as the latest sensors and an advanced radar system.

The first F-35 fighter jets delivered on Thursday will be ferried to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona for pilot training alongside US airmen.

The third and fourth aircraft will be delivered in March 2019, while the fifth and sixth will be directly sent to Turkey once their production is complete in November 2019.

The F-35 fighter jets will be deployed to the 7th Main Jet Base Command in eastern Malatya province. Training will begin in 2020 after the arrival of the aircraft in November 2019.

On Monday the US Senate overwhelmingly approved the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an amendment prohibiting sales to Turkey of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, citing the purchase of an S-400 air defense system from Russia and the continued detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, on trial in Turkey on charges of spying and attempting to overthrow the government, as the justification.

Brunson has denied all charges levied against him.

The budget must still undergo reconciliation with the House of Representatives version before it becomes effective.

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