Turkey engages US lobbying firm to secure return to F-35 jet programme
The Turkish government has hired Washington law firm Arnold & Porter to lobby the US to change course on its decision, which it made following Turkey’s purchase of the Russian made S-400 missile defence systems, which the US claim are a threat to their F-35 jets.
Law firm Arnold & Porter have been hired on a six-month contract, worth $750,000, and will provide “strategic advice and outreach”. The contract started this month.
Prior to the ban, Ankara had ordered more than 100 stealth fighters from the US and had also been producing parts for the fighter jets.
When the ban was imposed under Donald Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described it as unjust. He has expressed hope that the new administration of Joe Biden will allow for a fresh relationship and more positive developments.
The original contract for Turkey’s inclusion in the programme was signed by the Ankara-based SSTEK Defence Industry Technologies, which is owned by the Turkish Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB), the main defence industry authority for the Turkish government.
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According to the details of the contract, Arnold & Porter will, “advise on a strategy for the SSB and Turkish contractors to remain within the Joint Strike Fighter Program (JSF), taking into consideration and addressing the complex geopolitical and commercial factors at play.”
They will also, “undertake a targeted outreach to the US commercial partners and stakeholders within the JSF Program to sound out and understand their interests with regard to SSB’s continued involvement as a strategic ally and valued partner in the JSF Program.”
At the end of January, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar announced the purchase of a second batch of the Russian S-400 missile system.
He said at the time that Turkey had tried to purchase missile systems from its US and European NATO allies but did not receive adequate offers, forcing it to turn to Russia which expressed a more "positive attitude" to missile system sales.
Akar also expressed his hope for Turkey's return to the F-35 jet programme despite sanctions on SSB and a number of Turkish officials.
“We spent serious time and effort on F-35s. To stop it is a serious problem. What is more destructive is a confidence crisis, which can last generations. We should prevent that,” he said in January.
When Turkey was removed from the programme and sanctions were announced, the Pentagon did clarify that they will continue to rely on Turkish contractors for key F-35 components.
According to Turkey’s communications director Fahrettin Altun, Turkey has already paid for a number of the military jets even though they were not delivered.