By  Rudaw 

Ankara will receive its first F-35 fighter jet from the US in June. This is despite a faltering relationship between the two NATO members and recent attempts by US lawmakers to halt weapons sales to Turkey.

Turkey is expected to purchase more than 100 of the jets under a multinational program led by the US. Ankara currently operates a large fleet of F-16s, which it has used in operations against People’s Protection Units (YPG) positions in Afrin and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases in the northern Kurdistan Region.

As part of the US Department of Defense’s Joint Strike Force (JSF) program, Turkey and several other NATO member states are upgrading their fleets to include the new F-35. The multi-billion dollar project has been marred by technical faults and delays.

The first 30 jets will be delivered to JSF program members in a ceremony in the US on June 21, Hurriyet reported, citing defense sources. Turkish pilots will later take part in training exercises with US arms giant Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s main developer, before the new jet is delivered to Turkey.

It comes despite repeated attempts in the US Senate and Congress to block the delivery.

US Senators have called for Turkey’s exclusion from the JSF program, citing Ankara’s human rights record.

Highlighting concerns about the risks of giving cutting-edge capabilities to the “reckless” government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, three US senators introduced a bill in April to prevent the transfer of fighter jets to Turkey.

Congressmen have also tried to delay the delivery pending a Pentagon report analyzing tensions between the two countries.

Ties between the US and Turkey have continued to sour over rival stances on the war in Syria and the US refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen to Turkey over his alleged role in masterminding the 2016 coup.

Turkey has defended its rights record, saying the country faces terrorist threats from alleged coup plotters in the Gulen movement and the PKK.

Tensions have risen further over Turkey’s expected purchase of a Russian S-400 defense system.

In a recent press briefing, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters: “You’re only supposed to buy, they are only supposed to buy, weapons and other materiel that are interoperable with other NATO partners. We don’t see that as being interoperable.”

The purchase could lead to the US placing sanctions on Turkey. Ankara has vowed to retaliate.

“If they take such a step at a moment when we are trying to mend our bilateral ties, they will definitely get a response from Turkey. There is no longer the old Turkey,” Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, told CNN Turk this week.