By Bijan Razzaghi
The latest defense bill has officially led to the freezing of F-35As from being delivered to Turkey. The two Turkish F-35s will be put in storage while the pilots will return to Turkey. The reason for the halt of delivery is the poor relations between the United States and the current Turkish government. The issues leading to this decision are related to Turkeys attempt to purchase the S-400 from Russia, Turkeys opposition to US ally’s in Syria and a number of other political factors.
Turkey’s Air Force currently operates the F-16C/D block 50/52 and the F-4. The F-35 would of provided Turkey with a low observable strike capability. The F-35 would of been Turkeys first low observable platform. Turkey is also developing the TFX a low observable fighter design yet this aircraft remains in development without even a prototype ready.
It is unclear if Turkey will turn to Russia for combat aircraft as the Su-57 is not seeing mass production making the only viable options the Su-35S and Su-30BM. These aircraft lack stealth yet include modern systems such as IRST, and thrust vectoring to enhance maneuverability in air combat.
It is unknown what move Turkey will make next, it is possible Turkey will seek to negotiate the procurement of the F-35s and resolve the crisis before looking elsewhere for combat aircraft.