The United States will continue working with Turkish companies producing some parts for F-35 fighter jets until 2022, the White House announced on Tuesday.
According to Bloomberg, the US Defence Department has confirmed for the first time that the Trump administration has softened a pledge to oust Turkey from the fighter jet programme by March of this year. Washington’s threat was made after Ankara bought a Russian S-400missile defence system last year, which put a strain on the NATO allies.
Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said that the Turkish companies would continue to produce 139 components for the jets until 2022, Anadolu Agency reported. “Our industry partners will carry out the continuing contracts,” she stated, adding that the Pentagon is still looking for alternatives to the Turkish companies.
Last month, Trump remarked during an interview with Fox Business that large parts for F-35 fighter jets are produced in Turkey. Indeed, Turkey is both a parts manufacturer and major purchaser of the Lockheed Martin F-35, despite being suspended from the programme nearly a year ago.
Last year, the US declared that Russia’s S-400 system was incompatible with NATO systems and threatened the capabilities of the F-35 jets. However, Turkey rejected this and said that the S-400 system would not be integrated into NATO’s defences.
A 2018 analysis by Bloomberg revealed that Turkey is a global leader in aerospace manufacturing, with 10 Turkish companies on track to make around $12 billion worth of parts for the F-35, including the central fuselage, which is produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries.