US Senators Urge Pentagon to Do More to Export F-35 Aircraft

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Mark Wood

Mark served in the Marine Corps as a Lance corporal before retiring to spend time with his wife and young son. Today, he works part-time in construction and has numerous hobbies that keep him active. He founded Cole of Duty to write about military news around the world. He loves to discuss politics and the US budget, often debating with his wife and coworkers about who ought to be elected in 2020.

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Mark Wood

Because it has decided to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems, Turkey has been ousted from the F-35 program, which it was a partner of since 2002. Now, therefore, in the United States, it is necessary to find suitable customers to order the 100 aircraft that were to be returned to the Turkish Air Force.

Several elected officials, led by Senators Marc Rubio [Florida] and Pat Toomey [Pennsylvania] urged the Pentagon to increase sales of F-35 abroad, through a letter to Mark Esper, his new chief.

“The national defense strategy makes it clear that the United States needs to strengthen its alliances and attract new partners in order to adapt to the strategic competition between China and Russia,” it says.

These senators believe “the extension of the F-35 program is an important means to achieve this, especially for governments that are threatened by China and Russia.”

Thus, these governments would get “the most advanced multi-purpose combat aircraft in the world” while “deepening their military cooperation with the United States,” argue the US officials. In addition, they continue, “their military forces would increase their interoperability with ours and thus enhance their ability to deter foreign aggression.”

To increase sales of the F-35, it is necessary to convince the countries who are already customers [who, for the most part, are partners of the program] to increase the number of aircraft that they have already ordered.

In Europe, several countries could be of particular interest. Finland and Switzerland, which have to replace their F / A-18 Hornet in the near future, are also interesting. As is the Netherlands, to the extent that they plan to order more F-35A, and Greece. But we can also mention Spain, which will need to replace its AV-8B Harrier II.

In Germany, and before the launch of the SCAF program with France, the Luftwaffe had expressed a penchant for the Lockheed-Martin aircraft. In February, Berlin officially dismissed the F-35A to replace the Tornado fighter-bombers. But as the Bundestag will have the last word, German parliamentarians could be the focus of attention from the American industrialist.

“There is not a country in the world, it seems to me, in which the defense industries do not actively campaign with decision-makers to promote their products, their equipment, their business. If anyone here feels safe, let me know,” Florence Parly, the Minister of the Armed Forces, said of the Franco-German programs during a parliamentary hearing.

In Asia, Singapore is about to join the club “F-35,” which is already part of South Korea and Japan. What’s more, Tokyo, which has announced its intention to join the F-35 program, has planned to order a hundred more. Finally, India would be another outlet for both the naval and conventional version of the F-35. But the “Make in India” policy is an obstacle that Lockheed-Martin is trying to get around with its F-21 project.

In the Near and Middle East, only Israel has the F-35. And for good reason: the Obama administration had vetoed any export of this aircraft to the countries of the Persian Gulf, so as not to call into question the Israeli military superiority in the region, as part of the “Qualitative Military Edge [QME].” But in a context marked by strong tensions with Iran, it is not impossible for Washington to reconsider its position.

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