Published: Thu, July 18, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Turkey officially kicked out of F-35 program

Turkey officially kicked out of F-35 program

In a statement on Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said: "Unfortunately, Turkey's decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defence systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible". ButLord said those pilots and other Turkish personnel undergoing training have been told they have to leave the United States.

"The Department of Defense and the USA government more broadly have worked very hard to chart an alternative path that would enable Turkey to acquire air defense systems within North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance standards for interoperability and still allow Turkey to remain within the F-35 partnership".

"The U.S. has full confidence in the F-35 and supply chain", Lord said.

Trump announced on Tuesday that the S-400 purchase means Turkey will not be allowed to purchase any F-35 planes.

"The F-35 can not coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities", Grisham said.

Yet to be announced is whether the USA will impose economic sanctions on Turkey for its decision.

Lord said Pentagon officials had been aware of Turkey's intentions and raised concerns over the vulnerabilities posed should Turkey operate the F-35 and S-400 simultaneously.

Washington has long said the acquisition may lead to Turkey's expulsion from the F-35 program. "We will work forward at this point to unwind the relationship", she said. Those penalties range from limiting the size of American bank loans to Turkish entities to more severe efforts such as cutting off access to the US financial system, an unlikely step that would shatter the already fragile Turkish economy.

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Army Secretary Mark Esper, Trump's nominee to become secretary of defence, told his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday he is troubled by Turkey's decision to defy the United States on the S-400, suggesting that it reveals a broader strategic problem.

"As Nato allies, our relationship is multi-layered, and not exclusively focused on the F-35", she said.

The minister added the government has taken "sovereign decisions based on threat perception, operational and technological aspects to keep the Armed Forces in a state of readiness to meet the entire spectrum of security challenges" despite U.S. pressure to terminate the deal.

In a speech on July 15 (the third anniversary of the coup attempt), Erdoğan welcomed the first components of S-400 systems to Turkey, saying that "the S-400s are the strongest defense system against those who want to attack our country".

The US has repeatedly threatened to remove Turkey from the global consortium building the F-35 and block deliveries of the jets Ankara has bought and paid for, if the planned purchase of the Russian missiles went ahead.

However, Lord and Trachtenberg could not definitively say Wednesday whether that offer would stand should Turkey divest its S-400 equipment in the near future.

Investors in Turkey have been unsettled by the deal and the prospect of sanctions, a year after a dispute with Washington over the trial of a U.S. pastor in Turkey contributed to a financial crisis that drove Turkey's economy into recession.

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