Lockheed Martin held a rollout ceremony on Thursday for the delivery of two F-35 Lightening II fighter jets to Turkey despite recent opposition from Congress.
The F-35 program traditionally hosts a ceremony to recognize every U.S. and international customers’ first aircraft, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation. This year the ceremony took place at the Lockheed Martin facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
The aircrafts are scheduled to ferry to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where F-35 pilot training takes place. Turkish pilots and maintainers have already arrived at Luke and will begin flight training soon, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews told CNN on Tuesday.
The transaction comes after moves by both the House and Senate to remove Turkey from the Joint Strike Fighter Program due to Turkey’s imprisonment of an American citizen as well as Ankara’s plan to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system, which experts say threatens the security and data collection of the F-35. (RELATED: US Senate Blocks Sale Of F-35 Fighter Jets To Turkey)
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the Senate vote “lamentable,” describing it as against the spirit of NATO, according to Turkish media.
The House and Senate’s respective versions of the bill must be reconciled and then signed by President Donald Trump before it can be a law.
Until then, Lockheed Martin plans to move forward with the transfer.
“As always, Lockheed Martin will comply with any official guidance from the United States government” a Lockheed Martin spokesperson told TheDCNF.
Democratic Sen. Van Hollen of Maryland also secured language as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act that would prohibit funds from fiscal year 2019 to transfer the jets to Turkey, a Thursday press release said.
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