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Despite Tensions With US, Lockheed Prepares to Hand Over F-35s to Turkey

Despite increased tensions between Turkey and the NATO alliance and growing instability in the wake of last week’s failed coup attempt, Ankara will still receive its first two F-35 Joint Strike fighters.

Details surfacing about Turkey’s failed coup suggest that the attempt nearly succeeded, in part because of the rebels’ access to aircraft. Helicopters fired on security and intelligence buildings, a tanker refueling aircraft was commandeered, and a pair of F-16s reportedly locked onto President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plane, as he fled the coastal town of Marmaris.

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Had it succeeded, both Turkey and the broader Middle East could have a drastically different political framework. Tensions remain high as the Erdogan administration rounds up tens of thousands suspected of involvement in, or tacit support of, the coup.

But despite the security situation on the ground, US defense giant Lockheed Martin has announced that it plans to continue plans to deliver Turkey’s first F-35s.

Company spokesman Mike Rein confirmed that Ankara will receive its first A-variant fighters in Lot 10 of low-rate initial production (LRIP). Assembly will begin within the next six to 12 months.

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"However, there are parts for LRIP 10 jets being built as long-lead items in the supply chain," Rein told Flight Global.

He added that Lockheed does not foresee the coup attempt impacting the order.

While Lockheed Martin may not be concerned, Turkey’s military partners in NATO are. On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry hinted that Ankara could be booted from the military alliance if it continues what the West sees as an unlawful crackdown on suspected plotters.

"NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy. Obviously a lot of people have been arrested, and arrested very quickly. The level of vigilance and scrutiny is obviously going to be significant in the days ahead," he said.

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"Hopefully we can work in a constructive way that prevents a backsliding."

Speaking to Sputnik, Jeff Steinberg, senior editor of the Executive Intelligence Review, said he expected tensions to increase between Turkey and the West.

"The strains are likely to grow, as Erdogan moves to consolidate dictatorial power, using the failed coup and his ‘defense of democracy’ to make a total sham out of Turkish democracy," Steinberg said.

"The Europeans will recoil from any move to reinstate the death penalty, crack down with mass arrests and show trials, and this means, in effect, that any lingering thoughts about Turkey in the European Union will be over."

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