Reports: U.S. halts F-35 shipments to Turkey

by WorldTribune Staff, April 2, 2019

The United States on April 1 said it has stopped the delivery of F-35 fighter jet parts to Turkey following the Turkish government’s decision to purchase the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

The U.S. said it was immediately halting the delivery of F-35 parts and manuals as the first step toward ending the actual aircraft sale, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. had initially agreed to deliver two F-35s to Turkey in June.

“We very much regret the current situation facing our F-35 partnership with Turkey, and the DoD is taking prudent steps to protect the shared investments made in our critical technology,” acting chief Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers said in a statement. “Our important dialogue on this matter will continue, however, until they forgo delivery of the S-400, the United States has suspended deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability.”

The U.S. had agreed to sell 100 of the fifth-generation F-35 fighters to Turkey, initially planning to deliver two aircraft to Ankara in June.

The U.S. move comes just days after Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the Erdogan regime was committed to a deal to buy the Russian system and was discussing delivery dates.

The U.S. has for months warned the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that buying the Russian S-400 system would jeopardize its planned purchase of the advanced fighter aircraft.

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the top NATO general, told Congress last month that his best military advice would be that the U.S. not work with an ally that is acquiring Russian systems that can threaten one of the American military’s most advanced capabilities.

Officials have also expressed concerns that Turkey’s acquisition of both U.S. and Russian systems could give Moscow access to sophisticated American technology and allow it to find ways to counter the F-35, the AP report said.

The Pentagon has begun taking necessary steps to find other sources of supply for the Turkish-produced parts of the F-35, the State Department said.

Turkey is one of eight national partners that help build the F-35, producing parts of the fuselage and cockpit.

The Pentagon says it is developing “secondary sources of supply” for roughly 100 Turkish-produced parts and has initiated steps to ensure “prudent program planning and resiliency of the F-35 supply chain.”

In a report for the Washington Examiner, Jamie McIntyre noted that “Officials say the S-400s are not only incompatible with NATO systems, but operating the F-35 alongside an advanced Russian system designed to shoot it down would be tantamount to handing over classified F-35 flight profile information to the Russians.”

The United States offered to sell Turkey Patriot missiles instead, but Erdogan favors the Russian missiles, “which are cheaper and come with a co-production agreement that would help Turkey expand its defense manufacturing base,” McIntyre noted.

Turkey has already bought two F-35As, which are at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where Turkish pilots are being trained to fly them. But the planes will remain in the United States unless Turkey cancels the S-400 deal, the Pentagon said.

McIntyre noted that “The issue is coming to a head just as NATO foreign ministers are gathering in Washington to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the transatlantic alliance.”

Among those ministers is Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu, who just last week insisted that the agreement to buy the S-400 was “a done deal,” after he met with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

“The imbroglio comes as the United States also remains at loggerheads with Turkey over establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria to ensure U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters are not attacked by Turkish troops after America withdraws the bulk of its forces from Syria,” McIntyre wrote. “And as President Erdogan’s ruling party has suffered a setback in local elections, losing control of the capital Ankara and trailing in the race for Istanbul’s mayor.”

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