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10:07 AM, June 21, 2018
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F-35 Lightning fighter aircraft (image:Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin will conduct a rollout ceremony for the first two Turkish F-35 fighter jets despite US senate prohibition to the sales of the aircraft to Turkey.

The company will roll out the fighters in Fort Worth on June 21 and the jets will move on to Luke Air Base in Arizona where Turkish F-35 pilots and technicians will receive training until November 2019, Pentagon Spokesman Mike Andrew was quoted as saying by Hurriyet Daily Wednesday.

He declined to comment on the bill passed by Congress to block the delivery of the jets, saying “Turkey is one of the key members of NATO and a participant of the F-35 development project.”

Turkey plans to deploy F-35s on its Malatya Air Base, in Central Anatolia, where NATO’s key radar facility is also situated.

The ceremony will occur just two days after the Senate passed a $716 billion defense policy bill including an amendment prohibiting the sales of the F-35s to Turkey. The US Senate voted 85-10 for the annual National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which stipulates that US President Donald Trump should certify that Turkey does not threaten NATO, purchase defense equipment from Russia or detain US citizens, the daily report stated.

Turkey has been a partner of the active development program of the US-led multinational Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program since the early 2000s and plans to upgrade its air defense with around 100 F-35s in the next decade.

Turkey will be represented only by the deputy undersecretary for the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Serdar Demirel, and General Reha Ufuk Er from the General Staff’s general plans and policies division, in a rather low-profile fashion.

It hasn’t yet been announced who will be representing the US government and the US military on June 21. A reception will be held on the occasion of the ceremony at Lockheed Martin’s facilities.

In a statement to the media on June 19, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called on the US to discuss this row on Turkey’s procurement of the S-400s and the F-35s in an open manner.

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