Turkey has hired a Washington-based law firm to lobby for its reintegration into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program after the US kicked the country out of the deal following its purchase of S-400 defense systems from Russia.
Turkey had placed an order for receiving more than 100 F-35 stealth fighters and had been manufacturing parts for their production.
However, despite repeated warnings from the US regarding its focus on the procurement of the S-400 SAMs from Moscow, Turkey proceeded with the purchase of the lethal systems. Subsequently, the United States booted the nation out of the program of the F-35 fighters in 2019.
Considered the most advanced fighter jet, the fifth-generation single-seat, single-engine, all-weather multirole F-35 fighter has been on the shopping list of many nations, including the UAE.
While the Gulf nation is hanging in the balance over a potential deal with the US, Turkey remains a nation Washington is hellbent on not supplying the stealth fighters to.
For Ankara, the procurement of the Russian S-400s was the biggest stumbling block to reaching an agreement with Washington, which despises the systems due to the threat they pose to its prestigious F-35 fighters.
The Pentagon is of the view that the F-35 fighters cannot co-exist with a Russian intelligence-gathering platform, which it believes, could be used against the fighters.
Known as “stealth killers”, the S-400s are known to be the only defense systems that are capable of nullifying the stealth technology possessed by the F-35 fighter and taking them down.
However, despite being banned from the program, the Turkish firms have continued to produce parts of the American-made Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.
Now, in order to further aid its potential return to the F-35 deal with the US, Ankara has hired a law firm, Arnold & Porter, for “strategic advice and outreach” to the US authorities, in a six-month contract worth $750,000.
According to the filing notes of Arnold & Porter, it has pledged to “continually monitor export controls and trade sanctions that may be relevant and explain any said sanctions”.
The contract, which took effect on February 1, was signed with Ankara-based SSTEK Defence Industry Technologies, owned by the Turkish Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB), Ankara’s main defense industry authority.
“(Arnold & Porter will) advise on a strategy for the SSB and Turkish contractors to remain within the Joint Strike Fighter Program, taking into consideration and addressing the complex geopolitical and commercial factors at play,” said the contract.
The US’ decision to kick Turkey out of the F-35 program has hit the country hard, with the Turkish defense firms facing a loss of around $12 billion.
Some companies have continued to supply F-35 parts to Lockheed Martin until 2022 because of existing contract commitments.
Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called out the US for its decision, saying that his nation received nothing despite paying so much.
“Despite having paid a serious fee on the F-35s, the F-35s still have not been given to us. This is a serious wrong the United States did against us as a NATO ally,” said Erdogan.
According to Turkey’s communications director Fahrettin Altun, Ankara had already paid for some F-35 fighters.
“Even a hangar fee was taken from Turkey for the jets it could not take delivery of,” said Altun at a NATO-related event on February 18.
The US also continues to put pressure on Turkey, urging it not to retain the Russian missile systems.
“We urge Turkey not to retain the S-400 system,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby at a news conference earlier this month.