The United States (US) may stop the delivery of fifth-generation F-35 multirole jet to Turkey if Ankara persists on buying Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.
It would be the strongest signal yet by Washington that Ankara cannot have both the US-made advanced aircraft and Russia’s S-400 air defense system, Reuters reported Thursday.
According to the US, it would be compromising the security of Lockheed Martin aircraft if Turkey has both, the American jet and Russian missile defense system.
"The S-400 is a computer. The F-35 is a computer. You don't hook your computer to your adversary's computer and that's basically what we would be doing," Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told Reuters.
The US has not taken a decision regarding stopping of the F-35s yet, but it is considering steps to halt the delivery of its aircraft to its NATO ally Turkey, the report added.
“There (are) decisions that come up constantly about things being delivered in anticipation of them eventually taking custody of the planes. So there’s a lot of things in train that can be paused to send signals to them (that we’re serious),” she added, without detailing those steps.
Another official however said that the US is looking at other options.
“The US is seeing if it is possible to have another alternative to the F-35 engine overhaul depot somewhere in Europe, that is currently based in Eskisehir, Turkey,” he said without giving any further details.
A decision to drop Turkey from the F-35 program would have broader repercussions, since Ankara helps manufacture parts for the aircraft, including components of the landing gear, cockpit displays and aircraft engines.
“If Turkey was removed from the F-35 program, it would be the most serious crisis in the relationship between the two allies in decades,” according to Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said.
The strains on ties between Washington and Ankara already extend beyond the F-35 to include strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of US consular staff.
America has also tried to persuade Turkey to buy Raytheon’s Patriot defense system, instead of S-400s.
“Turkey is still open to buying Patriot systems from the US but only if the conditions are suitable,” Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey had said.