Turkey's inking of a consultation agreement with a Washington-based law firm to lobby to protect its rights in the F-35 fighter jet program after the country was suspended by the U.S. will not only benefit Turkey but will also protect the rights of U.S. companies, Defense Industries Presidency (SSB) Chairperson Ismail Demir stated Thursday.
Saying that this process aims to claim the rights of all firms, countries and structures that suffered a loss due to Turkey’s suspension of the program by the U.S., Demir stated: “Through this process, the road map will be clarified. The issue is multifaceted and comprises several points – being in the program or not, the loss of rights of both Turkish and U.S. firms from the time Turkey was in the program, reimbursing the costs Turkey paid to enter the program and the cost of the jets.”
Speaking to journalists in the capital Ankara, Demir pointed out that the rights of all aggrieved parties must be put on the agenda and that the first step of this may be to discuss the losses from the production process of both Turkish and U.S. firms and see it as an additional burden that may increase the cost per product.
Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 Lightning II jet program in 2019, arguing that S-400 air missile systems acquired by Turkey could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the Lockheed Martin F-35 jets and is incompatible with NATO systems. Turkey, however, insists that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Ankara-based SSTEK Defence Industry Technologies, owned by the Turkish Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), Ankara's main defense industry authority, signed a contract with Arnold & Porter for "strategic advice and outreach" to U.S. authorities.
Despite Turkey’s removal from the program and sanctions imposed on Turkey’s defense industry in December, the Pentagon has said it will continue to depend on Turkish contractors for key F-35 components.
A U.S. congressional watchdog warned in May 2020 that the U.S. decision to expel Turkey from the F-35 program is likely to compound its already beleaguered supply chain issues from a production increase. The $398 billion (TL 3 trillion) F-35 program has faced many problems since then, including engine shortages.
Demir underlined that the F-35 issue is a gradual process in which Turkey first worked together with Turkish lawyers and then decided to work with a U.S. firm as a second step.
“At this point, we will determine the stances of actors that are party to the issue,” he added.
Demir also reiterated that talks between Turkey and the U.S. on the purchase of Patriots collapsed over a host of issues including Ankara's dissatisfaction with Washington's terms.
On the other side, Demir also touched upon the Remote Electronic Support/Electronic Attack Ability in Air Platform (HAVA SOJ) Project, which will be able to detect, identify and locate enemy communication systems and radar (air defense, early warning, etc.) as well as confuse, deceive and blind these systems to prevent them from being used against friendly elements, particularly in cross-border operations.
Indicating that embargoes and delays have hampered the progress of the project, Demir highlighted that “despite hindrances in the HAVA SOJ project, we continue our efforts with our own capacities."
He also spoke of Turkey's TF-X National Combat Aircraft (MMU) – a joint project by the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), saying that the MMU Design Center will open soon.
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