by WorldTribune Staff, July 10, 2018
U.S. senators, Israeli officials and other critics of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are calling on the U.S. to halt the sale of up to 100 F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey.
Lockheed Martin on June 21 announced the roll-out of Turkey’s first two F-35s in an official ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas. The F-35s will not be delivered to Turkey until pilot training is completed in the U.S., a one- to two-year process.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill for U.S. foreign operations on June 21 after adding an amendment blocking delivery of the F-35s unless Turkey drops its plans to buy Russian S-400 missile-defense systems, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.
“The concern is that the F-35 is the most advanced aircraft, the most advanced NATO aircraft, and if Turkey goes forward with the acquisition of the S-400, it will allow the Russians to collect information on how to best attack an F-35 fighter,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat.
Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell said the sale could still be halted.
“We believe that we have existing legal authorities that would allow us to withhold transfer under certain circumstances, including national security concerns,” Mitchell said. “Given that, we believe that we continue to have time and ability to assure that Turkey does not move forward on S-400 before having to take a decision on F-35.”
Israeli defense officials have warned the U.S. not to sell the F-35s to Turkey. Speaking on condition of anonymity, Israeli officials told BreakingDefense.com that: “Turkey is a member of NATO on paper only, and now cooperates with countries that are against the U.S., not only in words. This delivery is something that Israel cannot understand.”
The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) said it is working with Congress to “stop the sale of F-35s” to Turkey. EMET cited Erdogan’s “shift towards autocracy,” concerns over both a threat Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” and the possibility that the U.S.’s “most sophisticated jet fighter might end up in the hands of Russia.”
A July 11 seminar on Capitol Hill will address “where Erdogan is taking his nation, and the proposed sale of F-35s,” according to an email from EMET President Sarah Stern.