Turkey officially removed from F-35 fighter jet program after refusing to cancel Russian arms deal; US refers to S-400 as the “Russian intelligence-collection platform”; White House: The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.
The United States officially removed Turkey from the F-35 stealth jet program on Wednesday due to Ankara’s purchase and scheduled deployment of the S-400 air defense systems from Moscow. The White House confirmed the move, referring to the S-400 as a “Russian intelligence-collection platform” that “undermines the commitments all NATO Allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems.”
The United States offered an alternative, the PATRIOT air defense system, multiple times, which Turkey refused. The advanced S-400 system is capable of tracking and downing the F-35 and undermines the United States’ presence in the region.
The White House reported Wednesday, “Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible. The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities. The United States has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defense solutions to meet its legitimate air defense needs, and this Administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the US PATRIOT air defense system.”
Referring to military and NATO ties with Turkey over 65 years, the press secretary added, “Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and NATO Ally for over 65 years, but accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO Allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems. This will have detrimental impacts on Turkish interoperability with the Alliance.”
On the future of US-Turkey ties, the White House stated, “The United States still greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey. As NATO Allies, our relationship is multi-layered, and not solely focused on the F-35. Our military-to-military relationship is strong, and we will continue to cooperate with Turkey extensively, mindful of constraints due to the presence of the S-400 system in Turkey.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced this week that the S-400 system would be deployed and fully functional by April of 2020, making Turkey the first NATO state with the defense system.