Turkish companies continue to produce parts of the F-35 fighter jets despite being removed from the program, the head of Turkey’s top defense procurement and development body has said.
“What they did on the F-35 was even against their domestic law. Our legal work continues. Turkey has always met its responsibilities as a partner of the program. Turkish companies are currently continuing to produce parts [of F-365 jets],” Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) Chair İsmail Demir told a group of journalists.
The U.S. has claimed the Russian-made S-400s defense systems that Turkey has purchased pose a threat to the next-generation F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defense systems. Washington earlier suspended Turkey of the F-35 stealth jet program.
The number of direct procurements of Turkey’s Defense Industries Presidency is minimal, and the productions are carried out by some contractor firms, so the U.S sanctions would not effectively harm the ongoing projects, the head of Turkey’s top body for defense project development and industrial participation said.
“The SSB doesn’t have much to purchase directly. As SSB, we define a project that our security forces need, mature it, tender it, hand it to the main contractor and then follow up. In this process, our main contractors also make direct purchases. These companies are also not covered by the sanctions. This decision does not mean sanctions on Turkey, they target the SSB, me and three of my friends from the team,” Demir stated.
Asked whether the suggestion that the U.S. sanctions could harm Turkey’s defense industry worth at least $1.5-2 billion, Demir said he does not see this argument realistic.
“This is not something that will happen within the currently announced framework of the CAATSA [the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act] sanctions. If there will be a practice and intention beyond that, it is something else. There have already been practices of slowing down and blocking [of the projects] for a long time,” he said.Elaborating on Turkey’s inventory of its fighter jets as Ankara is not able to procure F-35 aircraft at the moment and its F-16 jets are in the expiring period, Demir said the country can continue modernizing its defense aircraft.
“In addition to our current UAVs, our new UAVs, which will carry much larger, heavier ammunition and able to launch air-to-air missiles, are coming soon. We will also have an unmanned jet engine project. Hürjet [a training jet and light attack aircraft] and its advanced models to enter service earlier,” he stated.
The U.S. on Dec.14 imposed sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400missile defense system. The sanctions target SSB, including Demir and three other officials, along with a ban on all U.S. export licenses.