WASHINGTON D.C – The US has suspended delivery of fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters to Turkey due to Ankara’s plans to buy Russian S-400 anti-aircraft defense systems, the Pentagon said.
“The United States has suspended deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability. Should Turkey procure the S-400, their continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk,” Charles Summers, acting Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement issued Monday.
The US “has been clear that Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 is unacceptable,” he added. “Therefore, the DOD has initiated steps necessary to ensure prudent program planning and resiliency of the F-35 supply chain. Secondary sources of supply for Turkish-produced parts are now in development.”
He said, “We very much regret” the F-35 situation with Turkey, but the US must take “prudent steps to protect the shared investments made in our critical technology.” He pledged dialog with Turkey will continue “until they forego delivery of the S-400.”
Earlier, US senators had introduced a bill calling for a ban on the transfer of 100 F-35 fighters, previously agreed with Turkey, unless Ankara guarantees that it will not buy arms from Russia. The delivery of US-made planes had been effectively blocked by the Senate last year.
Meanwhile, the Turkish leadership has strongly defended its right to buy weapons from those who wish and has repeatedly reaffirmed that it will maintain the contract with the Russians about the S-400.
In early March, the Turkish president stressed that the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft defense systems is in no way connected to NATO security, the United States security or the US F-35 fighter purchase agreement.
Turkey will remain committed to the S-400 purchase agreement despite Washington’s opposition, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Turkish news channel TGRT.
“There will be no setback for the S-400s. In the case of the [Patriot missile systems], if the United States offers us acceptable conditions, we will be open to them as well,” Erdogan said.
He was hopeful that the problems between Turkey and the US involving the purchase of Russian anti-aircraft systems could be “solved in the same way that other issues were resolved.”