Turkish authorities have received an official invitation to receive the country's first next-generation F-35 Lightning II jet on June 21, according to the Turkish daily, Hürriyet.
"Lockheed Martin would be happy to see you by our side during ‘The Republic of Turkey F-35 Delivery Ceremony' at Fort Worth on June 21," said the official invitation letter from Lockheed Martin, the main manufacturer of the aircraft.
The handover of the first warplane will take place after the reception on June 21, the invitation letter added. Turkey's first F-35A will enter service in November 2019 after the completion of a pilot training program. The other jets will start coming at regular intervals, the report said.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Senate committee recently passed a defense policy bill which included measures to prevent Turkey from purchasing the F-35 jets. It was reported that the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) from Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Senator Thom Tillis, would remove Turkey from the F-35 program over the country's detention of U.S. citizen Andrew Brunson, Shaheen's office said. The bill also cited Turkey's agreement with Russia to buy S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries.
In responding to the U.S. Senate bill, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy had said the latest U.S. move targeted Turkey to persuade it to drop its S-400 defense system deal with Russia and release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is held in Turkey on terror charges for his links to the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Aksoy said that Turkey has "fulfilled all requirements" of the multinational Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program to produce Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II. The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) plans to supply 100 F-35A aircraft to the Turkish Air Force Command as part of the JSF Project, which Turkey joined as a partner country, to meet the needs of the Air Force Command's next-generation warplane. Apart from Turkey, the U.S., U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Norway and Denmark are also participant members of the program.