The United States is “unwinding” Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme as a result of the country buying the Russian S-400 air defense missile system, Pentagon officials have said.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg told reporters in the Pentagon that Turkey has taken delivery of the Russian-built system.
“Turkey cannot have both the Russian system and the fifth-generation fighter.”
Trachtenberg called the development unfortunate and said the U.S. government has worked tirelessly to avoid the necessity.
“But let me be clear, the United States greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey — that remains unchanged,” he said.
“As long-standing NATO allies, our relationship is multilayered and extends well beyond the F-35 partnership. We will continue our extensive cooperation with Turkey across the entire spectrum of our relationship.”
The U.S. government has been clear over the course of this procurement that Turkey can acquire the S-400 or the F-35, but not both, he said.
“Our response today is a specific response to a specific event,” he said.
“It is separate and distinct from the broader range of security interests where the United States and Turkey work together against common threats. Our military-to-military relationship remains strong, and we will continue to participate with Turkey in multilateral exercises to improve readiness and interoperability.”
The United States offered Turkey the Patriot missile defence system. Since early 2017, when Turkey began publicly discussing its interest in the Russian-made S-400 system, all levels of the US government consistently communicated to all levels of the Turkish government that the F-35 and S-400 are incompatible, Lord said.
“Turkey cannot field a Russian intelligence collection platform in proximity to where the F-35 program makes repairs and houses F-35s,” Lord said.
“Much of the F-35 strengths lie in its stealth capabilities. So the ability to detect those capabilities would jeopardize the long-term security of the F-35 program. We seek to protect the security of the F-35.”
Turkey made more than 900 parts for the F-35, that work will be picked up by American suppliers at first, but will open to other nations in the months ahead.