Turkey has hinted that it will initiate legal action against the U.S. Government to enforce its rights as a partner in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program from which it was unceremoniously removed for buying Russian S-400 Air Defense System (ADS).
Head of Turkey’s Defense Industry Presidency (SSB), İsmail Demir stated that the legal process is not over (yet); this is a partnership agreement and a partner cannot be excluded from the agreement just by saying “we took you out,” Defenceturk quoted Demir as saying Friday without mentioning where he made the statement.
İsmail Demir further said, “While there is not much positive response about the negotiation (Turkey had earlier proposed technical discussions to assure the U.S. that the S-400 poses no threat to NATO’s F-35 jets), now we see that at least a certain negotiation process will begin,” he said perhaps referring to the legal process to be initiated.
Demir said that in return for US$ 1.4 billion that Turkey paid to become a partner in the F-35 program, certain rights were created under the partnership. These rights included the F-35 aircraft to be purchased and the export (of F-35 parts) that Turkey manufactures under the program. He stated that Turkey was deprived of such rights.
On April 21, 2021, the United States notified Ankara that it removed Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Aircraft (JSF) Program. The Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed between the partner countries in 2006 was annulled to mark the official exclusion of Turkey from the F-35 JSF program.
The memorandum of understanding was renewed with 8 other partners of the F-35 JSF Program and the relevant developments were notified to Ankara by the U.S.
In order to re-participate in the F-35 program and to preserve its current rights, Turkey signed an agreement worth US$ 750,000 in February 2021 with Arnold & Porter, a U.S. based law firm.
The agreement, valid for 6 months, was entered into by Defense Industry Technologies (SSTEK), a subsidiary of SSB included legal consultancy for pursuing the rights of Turkey under the F-35 JSF program.
The U.S. has since imposed sanctions on Ismail Demir and other officials of the SSB under the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Besides, it has withheld the US$1.4 billion paid by Turkey and handed over to the U.S. Air Force, four aircraft that were ready for delivery to Ankara.
There were reports that Turkey many respond to U.S. sanctions by denying landing rights to U.S. military aircraft in its Incerlik air base. However, Ankara has not taken any such step so far.