We could easily sell Turkey’s F-35s to other customers: Lockheed Martin CEO

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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

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson downplayed the impact of a potential US ban on Turkey’s purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, saying other countries are already angling for Ankara’s jets, according to a report by the Defense One website.

Speaking Wednesday at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York, Hewson sought to soothe investors worried about losing the anticipated sale of 100 F-35s.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the Pentagon may stop training Turkish military pilots unless Ankara abandons its plans to buy Russian S-400 missile interceptors.

Lockheed has delivered four Turkish F-35s to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where Turkish pilots are learning to fly the jets. Currently, the company is slated to send Turkey about eight jets per year, Hewson said.

“It’s not a significant number of aircraft. If there was a sanction that Turkey couldn’t receive those aircraft now or in the future, it will be backfilled,” she said. “In fact, a lot of countries say: ‘We’ll take their [production line] slots.’ They really want the aircraft.”

Japan and Poland could be among those countries. US President Donald Trump, visiting Tokyo this week, touted Japan’s plans to buy nearly 150 F-35s.

If Turkey is barred from buying F-35s, its “delivery positions would thereby be vacated and available to Japan,” Capital Alpha analyst Byron Callen wrote in a May 27 note to investors.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak on Tuesday tweeted that Warsaw has asked to buy 32 F-35s. US and Polish officials have been in discussions about the potential purchase in recent months.

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