Air-to-surface missiles developed for the F-35 fighter jet could be used with Turkey’s locally-developed national combat aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the country’s industry and technology minister said on Saturday.
Two countries developed the SOM-J cruise missile, said Mustafa Varank during a press briefing at the 22nd National Sky Observation Festival in Antalya.
“If the countries in the F-35 program want to buy this type of cruise missile, we can easily sell these missiles even if we are out of the program,” he added.
Turkey’s locally-produced SOM-J cruise missile can also be integrated into Akinci UAVs produced by Turkish company Baykar, said Varank, adding that the apex of the UAV project would be to produce unmanned combat aircraft.
“This is the future of UAVs. I believe Akinci will have a huge multiplier effect in our defense industry,” he said.
Since 2017, Turkey and the US have been at odds over Turkey’s decision to buy the S-400, a Russian-made missile defense system, and US threats to break its contract to sell Turkey F-35 jets over the dispute.
US officials have argued the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35s to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, has emphasised the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
The delivery of S-400 components began last week and is ongoing, with 14 shipments of related equipment so far having landed in Turkey over the last nine days.
Deliveries are set to continue through April 2020.
Turkey has been officially “booted” from the F-35 multirole combat aircraft program. The F-35 multirole combat aircraft, produced by US-based arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin, is part of a massive weapons program exceeding $1 trillion. A single aircraft can cost over $100 million, or over twice the cost of Russia’s new Su-57 and many times more expensive than other Russian, Chinese and European-made aircraft already in operation.
NATO said Friday it was “concerned” by Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system after Ankara took delivery of its first batch, AFP reported.
First shipment of Russian S-400 missile defence system hardware to Ankara started today, Turkey’s National Defence Ministry said. “First batch of equipment of S-400 missile defence system, which is procured to meet Turkey’s air and missile defence need, has started to arrive at Murted Air Base in Ankara as of July 12, 2019,” the ministry said on Twitter.
The Turkish president has described plans to help Russia build its next generation missile defense system. The move is likely to further strain Turkey's relations with the United States. Russia and Turkey will jointly produce the next generation S-500 aerial missile defense system, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.
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