United States suspends F-35 deliveries to Turkey over S-400 deal

Israeli Air Force F-35 flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for IAF pilots

Israeli Air Force F-35 flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for IAF pilots

Washington halted delivery of F-35 jet equipment to Turkey on Monday in a message that the United States will limit their defence relationship if Ankara obtains the Russian S-400 missile system.

FILE PHOTO: A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018.

Summers said Monday that the Pentagon "has initiated steps necessary to ensure prudent program planning and resiliency of the F-35 supply chain".

Turkey has at least 100 F-35 jets on order from the United States, with each costing about $90 million (Dh330.5m).

The US initially planned make the first deliverly of two of the Lockheed Martin made aircraft to Turkey in November. Turkey produces parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays.

"Should Turkey procure the S-400, their continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk", he said in a statement.

In recent days, US officials told their Turkish counterparts they will not receive further shipments of F-35 related equipment needed to prepare for the arrival of the stealthy jet, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters. Last week, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate that would block transfer of F-35s to Turkey unless it is certified Turkey will not purchase the S-400.

"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", Hunter said.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the next shipment of training equipment, and all subsequent shipments of F-35 related material, have been canceled.

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U.S. officials have voiced concern that, with Turkey in both camps, Russian Federation could obtain F-35 data to improve the accuracy of the S-400 to shoot down Western aircraft. On Sunday, Erdogan suffered one of his biggest electoral losses in decades in local elections. They expressed hope that he would soften his position once the vote was taken.

Turkey's desire for a sophisticated missile defense system predates the start of the civil war in neighboring Syria, but it escalated in the wake of the 2015 Turkish shoot-down of a Russian attack aircraft that entered its territory from Syria.

As the Syrian war continued, Turkey and Russian Federation normalized relations, and together with Iran launched a diplomatic effort to forge a political solution to the conflict.

The first group of Turkish pilots and instructor-pilots have already graduated from the USA -led training program with the 63rd Fighter Squadron. Turkey considers the Kurdish group to be terrorists allied with its own Kurdish separatists.

"The United States has been clear that Turkey's acquisition of the S-400 is unacceptable", Summers continued.

The purchase of a Russian system is highly unusual for a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Western alliance forged to counter the Soviet Union.

The United States made another Patriot offer in December, but negotiations with the Pentagon have stalled. However, top government officials repeatedly have threatened to stop the sale if Ankara did not abandon efforts to buy the Russian S-400 system.

The United States has repeatedly warned Turkey that the Russian S-400 system it aims to buy would compromise the security of the F-35 aircraft, which is made by USA company Lockheed Martin.

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