Turkey will receive its first two F-35 fighter jets on Thursday, despite earlier attempts by the United States Senate to block the sales of the military equipment, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag has said.
“Necessary contacts have been made with the US, and delivery of the F-35 jets will be on Thursday,” Bozdag said, according to Anadolu news agency.
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Earlier this week, the sale of the two jets became uncertain when bipartisan efforts by the Senate and the House of Representatives were taken to potentially stop the transfer to Turkey.
US Congress called for the halt of the sales following the demand of a report by the Department of Defense on worsening US-Turkey relations.
After the bill was introduced by US Senators, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim criticised the US decision, calling it “an unfortunate development”.
Turkey will receive the fighter jets during a ceremony taking place in Fort Texas.
There, pilots will receive the necessary training to operate the planes, after which the F-35s will be moved to Turkey.
In 2014, Ankara placed a buy order of about 100 of the stealth jets, eventually looking to replace its current F-4 and F-16 fleet.
However, various legislators have cited a number of concerns with Turkey, including its plans to buy advanced Russian air defence systems, warming ties to Moscow and the arrest of US citizens and consulate staff.
The Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles are incompatible with NATO systems and the purchase has alarmed various member countries, which warned Turkey of unspecified consequences.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on June 4 emphasised that if Washington decides not to sell F35s to Turkey, Ankara will look further to other countries or produce its own.
According to the F35 project agreement, the first two F35s must be handed over to Turkey in the US by June 21 for training and testing purposes.