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The TurAF’s First Two F-35s Delivered to Turkey

The first F-35 aircraft with the tail number “18-0001” was delivered to the Turkish Air Force with a ceremony held at Lockheed Martin’s Dallas Fort Worth facility, within the scope of the JSF program where Turkey has taken part as a consortium member since 1999 starting from the conceptual design phase and committed to procure 100 F-35A Lightning-II aircraft. The first orders for the first two aircraft in Block-3F configuration and manufactured within the frame of LRIP 10 Low Rate Initial Production were given in the SSIK meeting held in May 2014. 

Serdar DEMİREL – Vice President of the Presidency of Defence Industries SSB (former name Undersecretary for Defence Industries) and Major General Reha Ufuk ER from the General Staff Plans and Policies Department represented Turkey at the ceremony held at the production base of Lockheed Martin located in Fort Worth, Texas and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn HEWSON, Turkish company representatives holding workshares in the JSF program and many journalists from the Turkish media were present at the ceremony, on June 21.

In his speech Orlando P. CARVALHO - Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Aeronautics thanked all participants at the ceremony and conveyed information on Lockheed Martin’s deep-rooted history and production capacity. CARVALHO: “Our facility here is one that is rich with history. Here our world class team has designed, produced and delivered more than 7,000 cutting-edge military aircraft since 1942. From bombers during World War-II to early fighters in the1960’s and the 1970’s, to the game changing F-16 Fighting Falcon which our guests from Turkey have operated for many years. Today you’ll get a first-hand look at the next generation of that legacy when we celebrate the technology, the capabilities, the partnership and the skilled craftmanship that has culminated in this first F-35 Lightning II for the Republic of Turkey.  

Before we get to the F-35 reveal it is my honor to introduce our official party. First our guests from the Republic of Turkey, from the Vice President of Defence Industries at SSB, Serdar DEMİREL. From the Turkish General Staff, the Head of Force Development and Funds Management, Airforce Major General, Reha Ufuk ER. From Lockheed Martin, our Chairman, President, Chief Executive Officer, Marillyn HEWSON.

In our audience today, I want to extend a welcome to our guests from the Presidency of Defence Industries, the Turkish General Staff, the Turkish Airforce, the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish Consulate in Houston. Thank you all for joining us today. We also welcome and thank the individuals from Turkish industry that are here with us today including our distinguished colleagues from the following companies; Turkish Aerospace (TA), the Kale Group, Alp Aviation, AYESAŞ, TEI, Havelsan, Roketsan, TÜBİTAK- Sage, Kale & Pratt and Whitney aircraft industries JV.

Ladies and gentlemen, the skilled workers and these organizations were critical to the production of this aircraft.  They and our entire Lockheed Martin team demonstrated every day that they believe in the purpose and the capabilities of the F-35.  I want to thank you again for being here with us this morning to celebrate this aircraft.  Enjoy the program.”

Following Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Aeronautics CARVALHO’s speech, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn HEWSON took the floor. 

“On behalf of the men and women of Lockheed Martin it’s an honor to welcome you all to Fort Worth. I’d also like to extend our welcome to those watching live from locations around the world.  Here in Fort Worth we have distinguished guests and officials from across government and industry, from the Republic of Turkey to the United States of America. Few nations have played such a pivotal role in human history as Turkey. Over the past decades Turkey has been an important and valuable ally for NATO, for the United States and for the cause of global security.  Today at this roll-out we present one of the most powerful symbols ever of what three nations can achieve together. The F-35 Lightning II. The F-35 program is a result of relationships built over decades of cooperation, collaboration and shared commitment.  This is a moment that was made possible by a bold vision put forth by the partner nations of the F-35 program which includes Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom and of course Turkey.  That vision was to protect the lives of our citizens and to strengthen global security through an unparalleled 5th generation aircraft. As we look around the world, the need for strong and effective alliances is clear and urgent.  We look out on a world filled with threats, some old, some new, and all evolving at an extraordinary pace in the 21st century.  These threats touch every domain; on land, at sea, in the air, in space and in the cyber realm. Some of these threats are the result of what US Secretary of Defence James MATTIS has called ‘A great power competition.’  No aircraft and no technology will be a more decisive strategic tool in the decades ahead than the F-35. With its stealth, speed and survivability, its unrivaled flexibility, its interoperability and its increasing affordability, the F-35 is a game changing technology for countering modern threats. It strengthens security by acting as a force multiplier for a nation’s entire armed forces.  It also strengthens allied planning, strategic awareness and capabilities for integrated defence. We know from the cooperation and industrial partnerships of the F-35 program it strengthens the economies of partner nations and facilitates job creation. The Republic of Turkey knows the value of the F-35 first hand.  Building on more than25 years of partnership on the F-16 Fighting Falcon, Turkey joined the F-35 team during the system development and demonstration phase.  Turkish forces planned to build a fleet of 100 F-35As and Turkish companies are expected to benefit from significant industrial opportunities over the life of the program. These military and industrial partnerships are an important part of the foundation between Turkey, the United States and allied nations. Today’s ceremony is yet another example of how the F-35 program serves as a bridge between nations.

In conclusion I thank our distinguished guests for joining us today. At Lockheed Martin our hope is that the F-35 will continue to strengthen the mission and the value of NATO, our relationship with Turkey and the cause of peace in the region and around the world.” HEWSON said.

Following HEWSON’s speech, the introductory film of F-35 was shown on the screen. While the participants were watching the film on the screen, the first F-35 aircraft of the Turkish Armed Forces was unveiled the roll-out ceremony.

Upon this historic moment, Major General Reha Ufuk ER from the General Staff Plans and Policies Department took the floor and delivered his speech: 

“It is my great pleasure to be here for this spectacular event and have the opportunity to address such a distinguished group. I am very excited to witness one of the state milestones of the Turkish Armed forces and I can assure you that all Turkish Armed forces share this excitement right now.  As you are well aware Turkey is located at the geo-strategic and cultural cross-roads between the east and the West. On the other hand, it’s geographic location and proximity to the conflict areas significantly increases the security challenges that it faces. All of these factors necessitate that Turkey has robust capabilities to secure its contribution to the regional and global security environment.  In that sense, the F-35 aircraft is a great asset toward achieving that goal with its unprecedented and numerous superior technological features, robust joint operational capacity and unmatched potential to adapt to future threats.  

The F-35 is said to become the major stock aircraft of the Turkish Airforce. As being the bulwark on the alliance’s southern flank, Turkey’s strengthening airpower will significantly augment the alliance’s capabilities and contribute greatly to regional and global stability. Despite the superior features of the F-35 aircraft, in order to be successful in today’s and the future’s security environment, which is full of constantly changing multidimensional threats, we should work together to explore ways to better use the operational potential of this aircraft. The resulting synergy would greatly enhance the aircraft’s already superior power and would ensure that it remains the same in the future. Turkey will provide more and better contributions to the interoperability of the NATO alliance in the future with the F-35. As you know, Turkish Airforce Maintenance personnel have already started their training at the England Airforce base and at the end of this month our pilots will begin their training flights with the F-35 aircraft. These personnel will open a new chapter in Turkish Airforce history and will Pioneer the training efforts at the Malatya integrated training center.  At this center we are ready to take extra responsibility for training F-35 pilots and maintenance personnel of the European Alliance. Another aspect of the F-35 program that pleases me most is the prospective integration of Turkish indigenous weapons; stand-off-missile (SOM), SOM-J and the precision Guidance Kit (HGK) will be integrated to the aircraft in the near future. This will significantly boost the utility that we are anticipating from the F-35.

Before concluding my remarks, my warmest thanks go to Lockheed Martin and other related companies and personnel who contributed to the F-35 program and made it worthwhile. I also would like the recognize Ms. HEWSON for her outstanding job in orchestrating the efforts to that end. I strongly believe that this will further deepen our cooperation and collaboration efforts. Furthermore, it would be unfair if I do not express our gratitude to the program Executive Office for their invaluable efforts.  Thank you very much for all of your hard work and strong cooperation. I hope our cooperation will improve during the life cycle period of the F-35s and especially at the sustainment phase.  Last but not least I should also thank Turkish Airforce personnel for their high dedication and hard work.”

Vice President of the Presidency of Defence Industries, Serdar DEMİREL also delivered a speech and said: “Today, we are receiving our first F-35 jet and we are seeing with our indigenous weapons the SOM-J and the HGK. We are proud that we have reached this stage in the program, but our partnership with the US Defence Industry is not only limited to F-35, we’ve had a long history. I would like to name a few of them; we started with MLRS which is now a Lockheed Martin company, then armored combat vehicles, then United Defence Company, Genesis system which Havelsan and Raytheon are comarketing together, Blackhawk helicopters co-produced by Sikorsky and Turkish Aerospace and being sold to other countries.  Boeing – we have several programs together, the development of our TuRAF’s Aircrafts and also Chinook helicopters. These are some examples that we are not just procuring or selling weapons to the United States but that we have been partners for long years. We are hoping that our partnership will continue from now on. Our biggest game changing cooperation event took place in the past, which was the co-production of F-16 program. With the F-16 program we have a very long history with Lockheed Martin Corporation. Finally, today, Turkey is taking the delivery of the first F-35 aircraft after joining the program 19 years ago.  Turkey joined in 1999 in the concept demonstration phase, after doing our duties there, then in 2002 we became a member of the system development and demonstration phase. Finally today, since 2007 we are still one of the 9 partner countries in the production, sustainment and follow-on development program.

F-35 is one of the largest acquisition programs around the world, and it is also a model for multi-national cooperation in the weapon development system.  Today between the US and the Republic of Turkey there are 7 other nations cooperating with us to make this a reality; United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Canada.  Today most of the representatives of these countries are with us and I would like to thank them for sharing our great day with us. With 9 partners we are both developing our common interests and ensuring that our national needs are met.  We are ensuring that this aircraft will serve our special needs and it will be a great weapon system for protecting world peace. Industrial collaboration is one of the key points. There are many industrial companies; Alp Aviation, Aselsan, AYESAŞ, Havelsan, Kale Group, Kale&Pratt, TA, Roketsan and TÜBİTAK.  These are the biggest companies, we have many other Turkish companies participating in the program. 

Starting from the AA1 – the first F-35 aircraft, there is a part that is produced by Turkish Industry that is used in every aircraft that is flying now.  We are very proud that we a partner in this program and we own this weapon system.  F-35 is changing the battlefields forever. Today we are the proud user of the F-16 which is one of the best aircrafts in the world, but the scene is changing. The F-35 will bring some new concepts to operation to our world. It is the weapon of the future.  We will be very happy to have the delivery of the first 5th generation aircraft with this ceremony.  We are hoping that this aircraft and our partner nation’s aircraft will serve to strengthen the deterrence of NATO, will serve to keep global peace and security and to serve everybody in the fight against terrorism. As I have mentioned, this aircraft is able to arm our indigenous weapons systems, SOM-J and HGK.  When the F-35 has the full operational capability in Turkey we will be able to use our own weapons in the aircraft and they will be the standard weapons for that F-35 community. 

I would like to thank everyone for making this dream a reality. I would like to start with Lockheed Martin as our prime contractor, thank all the engineers and employees, and also Pratt Whitney which is powering our aircraft.  Also, our main subcontractors BAE systems and Northrop Grumman for working with us in the course of the program.  Finally, I would like my staff in the Presidency of Defence Industries for spending all their and nights and their work on this program. Also thank you to the Turkish Airforce for working with us very closely to have very good program management. Finally I would like to thank the Joint Program Office for protecting the rights of the partners and making this program a very successful one. Thank you everyone for being with us on this important day.”

The ceremony ended upon the completion of the speeches.

More than three thousand orders have been received so far and a total of three hundred aircrafts have been delivered to the related authorities in various configurations within the scope of the program developed by a total of nine countries including Turkey. Under the program where Turkey is a “Level 3” partner, thirty (2 + 4 + 8 + 8 + 8) aircraft in F-35A configuration have been ordered so far, while Turkey has committed a hundred F-35As within the scope of the whole program. Also, within the scope of the Turkish Naval Forces’ requirements, 16 F-35B STVL aircraft are expected to be procured by Turkey in order to deploy them on the TCG Anatolia LHD ship, the construction activities of which are still ongoing. TCG Anadolu LHD ship for now to deploy is expected to supply STVL.

Following the delivery of the first aircraft with the tail number of 18-0001 on June 21, the second aircraft with flight number of 18-0002 was delivered to the related authorities on June 22. Following this delivery, both planes will fly to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, United States, for the training of trainer pilots of Turkish Air Forces. The first two delivered aircraft are planned to remain here by 2020, and then to be deployed to the air training base of the 172nd Squadron in Malatya, which is currently under construction and will be fully operational in the last quarter of 2019 following accreditation processes.

The third (AT-3) and fourth (AT-4) F-35A aircraft of the Turkish Air Forces, which are under production phase at Lockheed Martin facilities, are scheduled to be delivered to the Turkish authorities in March 2019. It is stated that the third and fourth planes will also remain at Luke Air base in Arizona by the year 2020. The fifth and sixth aircraft, which are planned to be delivered in November 2019, are expected to be deployed to the air training base of the 172th fleet in Malatya immediately after the delivery ceremony.

It is stated that the F-35 air training facility to be constructed in Malatya will be similar to Luke Air Base in Arizona, USA. The training of Turkish Air Forces pilots, as well as pilot training of F-35 user countries especially in Europe are planned to be conducted at this facility.

F-35 pilot training of the Turkish Air Forces will start at Luke Air Base in July 2018 and a total of 13 pilots will be trained as instructor pilots. Following the completion of their training, the instructor pilots are expected to stay here until the year 2020 in order to increase their flight experience. During the training, which is planned to eight weeks  for each pilot, 50% will be simulation training and 50% physical flight training. It is also recorded that more than three hundred maintenance personnel will be trained in the US within the scope of the program