Greek media outlets report that the U.S. will divert to Greece six F-35s originally built by Lockheed Martin for Turkey.
Although the details are still pretty fuzzy, Greek social media went abuzz following the reports that Greece would receive, in 2022, six F-35s originally destined to Turkey that was kicked out of the program last year.
Greek Estia newspaper reported that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a virtual “green light” to the supply of 20 F-35s during his recent visit to Greece, and the deal “was discussed and agreed” according to Greek City Times. Noteworthy, as part of the deal, six jets will be purchased in 2022 and “will be delivered together with the first six Rafale fighter jets from France.”
Earlier this year, DefenseNews reported that the U.S. Air Force would officially buy eight F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jets originally built by Lockheed Martin for Turkey as part of a $862 million contract modification. “In the FY20 version of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress gave the Pentagon permission to spend up to $30 million to fly the first six Turkish F-35s to a location where they could be stored and preserved until the department came up with a plan for their use,” Valerie Insinna reported. “Those jets, which were produced in Lots 10 and 11, are currently being held “in long-term storage in the United States pending final decision on their disposition,” the defense official said.”
Therefore, it’s not clear whether the Greek reports are accurate and the Hellenic Air Force is really getting those first jets or six among the 24 Turkish F-35s that were in various stages of production at the beginning of the year.
Whatever, as we reported in the past, Turkey had planned to purchase 100 of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II conventional takeoff and landing variants of the Joint Strike Fighter, the same version used by the U.S. Air Force. Ten Turkish companies were involved in the development and/or production of the 5th generation aircraft, with a total Turkish investment of more than $1 billion.
On May 10, 2018, the first F-35A (serial 18-0001) destined to the Turkish Air Force performed its first flight at Lockheed Martin Ft. Worth facility, Texas, piloted by US Navy test pilot Cmdr. Tony Wilson. The first flight of a Turkish pilot occurred few months later, in August 2018.
In the meanwhile several of U.S. congressmen had urged the U.S. administration to suspend the procurement of these fighters to Turkey because of the latter’s decision to buy Russian S-400 advanced air defense systems: there was widespread concern that the Turkish procurement could give Moscow access to critical details about the way their premiere surface-to-air missile system performs against the new 5th generation aircraft.
The U.S. eventually removed Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program in July 2019, following Ankara’s acceptance of the S-400 Russian-made air defense system.
Back to Greece, we mentioned the Greek interest in a squadron of 24 F-35A 5th generation aircraft, “possibly from 2024 or at the end of the deliveries of the Rafale and the upgrade of the F-16”, when we reported about the acquisition of 18 Dassault Rafale fighter jets for the Hellenic Air Force in September. Now, it looks like the F-35 procurement has had an acceleration.
That being said, if confirmed, the procurement will be a Government to Government process and should take some time to complete. For this reason, the delivery of the jets next year claimed in the most recent media reports seems a bit optimistic. However, we’ll see.