American taxpayers will be stuck paying for eight F-35A conventional jets originally built for Turkey at the hefty price tag of $77.9 million per unit, after Turkey was ousted from a joint strike fighter program last year.
After a year of speculation about what would happen to the jets, the Pentagon announced late Monday that the U.S. Air Force will buy eight of the jets built by Lockheed Martin for Turkey as part of an $862 million contract, Defense News reported. The deal also includes an additional six F-35As built for the Air Force and modifications that will bring the Turkish jets in line with the U.S. configuration.
Turkey was kicked out of the program last July after Ankara purchased the S-400 air defense system from Russia in defiance of U.S. and NATO concerns that it is not compatible with NATO systems and threatens the stealth capabilities of the new fighter jets.
Turkey had planned to buy 100 F-35As, and took ceremonial delivery of the first two in June 2018. The planes were delivered to the Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona, where Turkish pilots and maintenance workers were training to fly and fix them.
The F-35A program was designed by the United States to produce fighter planes not only for use by the U.S. but also its allies, which would contribute to the cost of developing the jet, in exchange for contract to produce the plane’s components locally.
But after Ankara decided to purchase the Russian S-400 defense system and was ousted from the program, the U.S. essentially was left holding the bag. Congress, under the FY 20 National Defense Authorization Act, allocated $30 million to the Pentagon to move the six jets to a secure location. Defense News reported that the Senate version of the FY 21 NDAA includes language that would allow the Air Force to accept, update and even modify the F-35A fighter jets.
Ankara is disputing that it is out of the joint strike program. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, upon learning that his country was ejected from the program due its decision to go the Russian route, said that withholding the delivery of jets amounted to theft.
Now, American taxpayers are left paying the bill for Ankara’s deviation from commitments to its allies while defense contractor Lockheed Martin will make more money, as the Administration continues to cave in to Ankara’s whims on issues like the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.