Report: Cost concerns prompt Turkey to back off fighter buy

Defense officials in Turkey have decided to postpone a planned purchase of the first two Joint Strike Fighters ordered by Ankara last January, Agence-France Presse reported on Friday. 

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Turkey, along with the United Kingdom and Israel, is one of the top international participants in the Joint Strike Fighter program. Other JSF countries include Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Denmark and Norway. 

"Due to the current state of the JSF ... and the rising cost ... it was decided to postpone the order placed [last January] for the two aircraft," according to a government statement. 

The decision, issued by Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defense Industry, was driven by concerns that the fighter jet's advanced capabilities "were not at the desired level yet," according to defense officials. 

That said, Anakara was adamant that its decision was not a sign that Turkey was completely abandoning its plans to purchase 100 F-35's in the coming years. 

The futuristic weapons and stealth capabilities envisioned for the F-35 by U.S. military planners would make it the most technically superior fighter jet in the world. 

However, repeated schedule delays and rampant cost growth tied to the fighter's development have caused a number of international JSF participants to second-guess their involvement in the program. 

Canada officially restarted its effort to find a replacement for its aging fleet of F-16 fighters last December. The decision came after Ottawa decided to freeze all funds for the JSF, in the wake of a scathing review of the country's effort to bring the F-35 to Canada. 

Last April, a report by Canada's auditor general alleged that defense officials failed to inform top government decision-makers "of the problems and associated risks" of buying the F-35 by intentionally sugar-coated cost analysis of the fighter. 

The report drew outrage from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of the Canadian parliament, throwing into doubt the country's plans to buy 65 new F-35's over the course of the next several years, at a cost of $8.9 billion. 

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