A Plane That Can Go 1100 MPH at Center of Military Controversy

June 8, 2019 by Douglas A. McIntyre

The United States has told Turkey that it will no longer offer training on one of the most powerful weapons in the world if the country buys anti-aircraft systems from Russia. One of the fastest and most deadly military fighters ever developed and deployed has become a pawn in an international battle.

The U.S. Department of Defense issued a statement saying that while Turkey is a “strategic partner,” it is not acceptable that its military has sent personnel to be trained on Russia’s S-400 system, an anti-aircraft weapon. U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord said, “The S-400 is incompatible with the F-35. As we have very clearly communicated at all levels, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400 system. Thus, we need to begin unwinding Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.”

The F-35 is America’s leading fighter jet. First launched in 2006, the earliest version, the F-35A, has a top speed of 1,199 miles per hour. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT), it can fly as high as 50,000 feet. Lockheed Martin is at the top of the list of companies profiting the most from war. The jet can carry missiles, bombs and rotary cannons. So far, 400 have been made. That figure is likely to rise more than 2,400.

The F-35 has been developed for the Army, Navy and several American defense partners, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey. The overall cost of the program to develop and make the jet will be over $80 million per plane. The F-35 is built to evade enemy radar.

The plane’s speed is one of its most important characteristics. It is routinely listed as one of the 10 fastest fighters in the world. This speed is meant to match the Russian Sukhoi PAK FA T-50. And it is Russia that is on the other side of the Turkey controversy. The speed is also critical for air-to-air combat and attacking targets on the ground.

Leading military research firm Jane’s recently commented that “the US military is at the beginning of the process to introduce what will be the country’s premier combat aircraft for decades to come.” To fulfill that mission, it will need to be one of the fastest fighters ever built. Turkey needs the jet for strategic reasons. It has one of the highest military budgets in the world and is one of the countries that spend the most on war.