The United States announced on Wednesday that it is removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, a move that came after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system last week, Reuters reports.
The first parts of the S-400 air defense system were flown to the Murted military air base northwest of Ankara on Friday, sealing NATO ally Turkey’s deal with Russia, which Washington had struggled for months to prevent.
“The US and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program,” Ellen Lord, the US undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, was quoted as saying at a briefing.
Turkey makes more than 900 parts of the F-35, Lord said, adding the supply chain would transition from Turkish to mainly US factories as Turkish suppliers are removed.
“Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision,” Lord said. “It will no longer receive more than 9 billion dollars in projected work share related to the F-35 over the life of the program.”
The F-35 stealth fighter jet, the most advanced aircraft in the US arsenal, is used by NATO and other US allies.
Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information about the aircraft’s stealth system.
“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the White House said in a statement earlier on Wednesday.
Washington had long said the acquisition of the S-400 might lead to Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 program.
Lord said all the Turkish F-35 pilots and personnel had “firm plans” to leave the United States and are scheduled to leave by July 31.
Turkey will no longer be able to buy the 100 F-35s it had agreed to purchase.
After the Pentagon announcement, Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “We invite the United States to return from this mistake which would open irreparable wounds in strategic relations.”
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