(June 19, 2018 / JNS) Despite the U.S. Senate voting overwhelmingly to block the sale of the advance F-35 fighter jet, Turkey is still set to receive the jet this week at a ceremony in Texas.
“Lockheed Martin will hold a rollout ceremony for Turkey this Thursday in Fort Worth, and the two jets will follow-on to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona at a later date,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, reported CNN.
“Turkish F-35 pilots and maintainers have arrived at Luke Air Force Base and will begin flight academics soon,” he added.
A bipartisan amendment to the $717 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was passed on Monday by the Senate in an 85-10 vote, prohibits the transfer of the F-35s to Turkey amid a deterioration in U.S.-Turkish relations.
The Senate version of the bill expressed concern over Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft system as well as the detention of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson. Additionally, many lawmakers had also been concerned about Turkey’s growing hostility towards Israel.
Last month, the House of Representatives also included an amendment blocking the sale to Turkey when they passed the NDAA. Both the House and Senate versions still need to be reconciled, voted on again and then signed by President Donald Trump.
Following the Senate vote, Turkey blasted the move to block the sale, calling it an “unfortunate development.”
“Turkey is not without alternatives. Such attempts are regrettable and goes against the soul of strategic partnership,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
From its inception in the 1990s, the F-35 was touted as a next-generation fighter plane for the 21st century that would replace the workhorse F-16, F-15 and other older fighter aircraft. A NATO member, Turkey is one of the original partners for the F-35 program, which also includes United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, as well as Israel and Singapore later signing on.