Turkey plans to purchase more than 100 of the F-35A fifth generation stealth fighters. It expects to receive its first F-35 in 2018, something that will have serious implications for the balance of power in the Aegean given Turkeys record of violating Greek airspace. .
Like other partners in the program, Turkey plays a role in the F-35 industrial base, including its responsibility to build an engine maintenance facility that will service all European operators of the stealth fighter.
However, security concerns have been raised in the UK about the plans to carry out major servicing work on the new F-35 fighter jets in Turkey.
Mark Bobbi, principal analyst at IHS Jane’s told BBC News:
“My concern is that any cessation of Turkish engine maintenance would strain customer operations of the F-35,”
“If such is in the context of combat operations in the Middle East, then the issue becomes very serious indeed.”
He added: “F-35 partners, all of them, should be concerned with Turkey and be ready to respond quickly to any political, social, or ‘military’ crisis.”
The nine F-35 partner nations – US, UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and Turkey – will share maintenance tasks, with UK companies handling repairs to electronics and ejector seats at a facility in North Wales.
Tensions between Turkey and its Nato partners have been running high since last year’s failed military coup.
Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer, is aware of emerging concerns on both sides of the Atlantic about F-35 sales to Turkey and is closely watching for developments. During an interview at the Paris Air Show last June, Orlando Carvalho, Lockheed’s vice president of aeronautics, told Defense News that the company will stick to the current program until told otherwise (by the US government).
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has fired hundreds of senior military staff serving at Nato in Europe and the United States.
Edited for Apokoronas News