US stops F-35 fighter jet deliveries to Turkey
The United States has halted deliveries of F-35 fighter jet (pictured) parts to Turkey, marking the first US steps to block the delivery of the plane to its supposed Nato ally after Turkey’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defences.
The US told Turkey that further shipments of the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 equipment had ceased, the Pentagon said.
Washington had agreed to sell 100 of its fifth-generation F-35s to Turkey, with two jets due to be delivered in June.
“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended,” said US spokesman Colonel Mike Andrews.
Buying the S-400 would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft, Washington said, which has tried to persuade Turkey to buy the US-made Patriot air defence battery instead. In December the State Department approved the sale of a US$3.5-billion Patriot system to Ankara, which is reportedly a knock-down price.
Turkey is still demanding the US extradite self-exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. The “allies” area also at loggerheads over the Syria civil war and the role of the Kurds in the conflict.
Turkey has said it would receive the Russian S-400s from July.
Nato commander US General Curtis Scaparrotti said last month that he was advised that Washington would not work with an ally that was using Russian systems.
Awkwardly, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, is due in Washington this week for a Nato summit.
“As a principle, it is contrary to international laws for a third country to oppose an agreement between two countries,” the minister said. “We are committed to this agreement. There can be no such thing as selling to a third country. We are buying them for our own needs.”
Cavusoglu insisted Turkey had met all its obligations under the F-35 programme.
Turkey makes parts of the F-35 fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays, although its role could be replaced, according to security sources.
“Certain Russian weapon systems are seen as inherently threatening to the United States regardless of who is operating them and for what purpose,” said Andrew Hunter of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
“Because Turkey is not just an F-35 purchaser, but an industrial partner, blocking delivery of these systems represents a major escalation by the United States as it threatens to impose serious costs on both sides,” he added.
Nato said it was concerned that F-35 would prove vulnerable to the S-400 missile system, which would learn how to identify and track the plane.
The F-35 fighter jet. Picture credit: Wikimedia