After Turkey insisted last week on a major arms purchase from Russia, the United States said Monday it was halting all deliveries and joint work with its NATO ally on the F-35 fighter jet program, the BBC in Russian reports.
This is the first direct U.S. measure against Turkey, after months of warnings by Washington that Ankara’s decision to buy Russia’s S-400 missile system was incompatible with remaining part of the emblematic U.S. warplane program.
Turkey is a U.S. partner for the production of low-profile F-35 fighter-bombers along with other NATO allies. The country ordered a total of 100 F-35A fighters and received the first two F-35s in June last year.
“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,” Pentagon chief spokesman Charles E. Summers Jr. said Monday.
“We are very sorry for the current situation in which our F-35 affiliate program finds itself, but the defense ministry is taking reasonable steps to protect the joint investments that have been made in our most important technology,” he added.
Washington has repeatedly warned Ankara that the Russian Triumph S-400 anti-aircraft missile system poses a security threat to the F-35 jet.
“We have signed a deal with Russia, and this deal is valid. Now we are discussing the delivery process,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week during a press conference with his Russian counterpart.
“We have an agreement with Russia and we are bound by it,” he said, adding pressure from other countries was against international law.
Cavusoglu said Turkey had also met its obligations as a partner in the F-35 jet program, produced by Lockheed Martin.