The Pentagon has ceased deliveries of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) bound for Turkey and associated activities as Ankara continues to pursue the Russian-made S-400 weapon system, the department confirmed April 1.
“Until they forgo delivery of the S-400, the United States has suspended deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability,” said Acting Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Charles E. Summers Jr. in a statement Monday.
Reuters first reported today that the Defense Department had begun to halt F-35 equipment deliveries to Turkey.
“The United States has been clear that Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 is unacceptable,” Summers said in the statement. “Therefore, the DoD has initiated steps necessary to ensure prudent program planning and resiliency of the F-35 supply chain. Secondary sources of supply for Turkish-produced parts are now in development.”
Summers added: “We very much regret the current situation facing our F-35 partnership with Turkey, and the DoD is taking prudent steps to protect the shared investments made in our critical technology. … Should Turkey procure the S-400, their continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk.”
DoD officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have long expressed concerns about Turkey – a NATO member state who has committed to the F-35 and is an industry contributor to the system’s production – desiring to procure the S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system and the potential impact of a Russian-made system on the Joint Strike Fighter.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the “Protecting NATO Skies Act of 2019” bill March 28, which would prohibit the foreign military sale of F-35s to Turkey as long as it commits to the S-400 (Defense Daily, March 28).
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said in a statement Monday that the department’s decision to halt deliveries of F-35 aircraft and equipment “is an important step forward, but doesn’t go far enough.”
“I’ll continue to call on the administration to prevent the delivery of the F-35 aircraft until Turkey abandons its plans to obtain the Russian defense system,” she added. “Senate Republican leadership should allow a vote on my bipartisan bill with Senators Lankford, Tillis and Van Hollen that would do just this and give the administration the tools it needs to safeguard our national security.” Shaheen is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Russian-based news outlet TASS reported March 29 that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed the S-400 contract with Moscow is moving ahead, despite the proposed bill on Capitol Hill.