Turkey expects the delivery of F-35 fighter jets from the US in November, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
“Despite some statements, the F-35 process is going smoothly; our pilots and maintenance team continue training in the US,” Akar told a luncheon with top Turkish generals in the capital Ankara on Wednesday.
“We expect delivery of the F-35s in November to [eastern] Malatya province, where relevant preparations for infrastructure have been completed,” Akar added.
“In our visit to the US, they told us that Turkey is one of the countries that has fulfilled its responsibilities, both financial and otherwise.”
The defense chief added that Turkey continues to do its part in designing and manufacturing some parts of the F-35s.
Akar also stressed that Turkey has a clear stance over the procurement of a Russian S-400 missile defense system.
As an issue for Turkey since the end of the 1990s, Turkey’s search for an air and missile defense system accelerated in 2011 due to threats, Akar said.
After NATO stationed Patriots from the US, Germany and the Netherlands at Turkey’s request, they were withdrawn after a one-and-a-half-year period, he stated.
“So everybody saw that we cannot survive relying on temporary measures, and we should acquire [an air defense system],” Akar said.
Akar said Turkey’s main criterion was to acquire the technology, production, modernization and export rights of the systems that it purchases.
Russia responded positively to these demands, and the agreement was signed for the purchase of the S-400 missile defense system after negotiations, he said.
Curtis Scaparrotti, the top US general in Europe, said on March 6 he would recommend that the United States not sell F-35 jets to NATO ally Turkey if Ankara does not drop plans to buy the S-400 defense system from Russia
On the letters sent to NATO and the US for the procurement of air defense systems, Akar said the US got back to Turkey 17 months later.
“We haven’t parted ways with NATO. We fulfill our commitments to NATO. However, our national security concerns cannot be ignored,” said Akar.