Turkey expects first F-35 delivery in 2018, plans more orders

A Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter taxis along a runway at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford, Britain July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey expects to take delivery of its first Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N F-35A fighter jets in 2018 and has decided to order a second batch, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries said on Friday.

It did not say how many more of the fighter jets it planned to order but two U.S. officials familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the second batch would comprise 24 jets.

The Undersecretariat said it expected the new orders to be delivered in 2021 and 2022. Its statement was released after a meeting of its executive committee chaired by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

Lockheed is building three variants of the F-35 for the U.S. military and 10 countries that plan to buy the jets: Britain, Australia, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Japan and South Korea.

A Lockheed representative said the company is “honored” by Turkey’s continued commitment to the F-35 program which was further demonstrated by the decision by the DIEC today.

The U.S. portion of the programme alone is expected to cost $379 billion. A total of 3,000 of the jets are to go into service around the world in coming years.

Turkey had placed its first orders in 2014 with two jets and has added another four to that in 2015, according to the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries website. It aims to eventually purchase a total of 100, it said.

Additional reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Tulay Karadeniz; Editing by Andrew Roche, Bernard Orr