Air-to-surface missiles designed for the F-35 fighter jet could be used with Turkey’s own national combat aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the country’s Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank said during a press briefing at the 22nd National Sky Observation Festival held in Antalya.
He noted that in the event F-35 programme countries fancy buying this type of cruise missile, “we can easily sell these missiles even if we are out of the programme”. Varank specified that their locally-produced SOM-J cruise missile can also be integrated with Akıncı UAVs designed by a Turkish company, Baykar. He added that the final goal of the UAV would be the manufacturing of unmanned combat aircraft.
"This is the future of UAVs. I believe Akıncı will have a huge multiplier effect in our defence industry”, he summed up.
Turkey and the US have been at loggerheads over Ankara’s decision to buy Russian-developed S-400 missile defence systems, with Washington threatening to halt its earlier contract to sell Turkey F-35s in response. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that if the US refuses to sell its F-35 jets to Turkey, the country will "once again have to take measures on that matter [and] turn elsewhere" for fighter jets for its Air Force.
While US officials stated the Russian-made system would expose the F-35s to Russian subterfuge, make known the F-35s’ capabilities and undermine NATO systems, the Turkish side emphasised that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and thereby pose no threat to the western alliance.
Moscow and Ankara signed an agreement for the delivery of four S-400 batteries to Turkey in December 2017. Turkey has stressed that it will not abandon its $2.5 billion contract with Russia, which was earlier described by Erdogan as a “done deal”. Russia completed the first stage of shipments containing the S-400 air defence system’s components in late July. Erdogan, meanwhile, noted the S-400 system would become fully operational by April 2020.