After a 15-month delay, Turkey has approved a decision to order an initial two Lockheed Martin F-35s, launching the acquisition phase of its next-generation fighter project.

The decision was taken during the undersecretariat for defence industries' (SSM) executive committee meeting in Ankara on 6 May, by a committee managed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Ankara had delayed the step in January 2013, citing technical factors and the high costs of the programme.

According to the Turkish air force programme, a total of 100 conventional take-off and landing F-35As will enter service from 2018. The service's first two examples – to be manufactured in the Block 3F configuration during the tenth lot of low-rate initial production – will initially support training activities, and will be based in the USA for a year, before being deployed to Malatya air base.

Ankara plans to take delivery of its subsequent F-35s at a rate of 10 per year, with the total project cost having been budgeted at $16 billion, according to SSM sources. Turkey is also to establish a final assembly and check-out line and depot-level maintenance centre for the type's Pratt & Whitney F135 engine.

Turkey is a Level 3 partner on the Lockheed-led F-35 project, having invested $195 million since entering the concept demonstration phase in 1999.

Source: Flight International