WASHINGTON, (BGM) – Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan is taking significant steps toward cutting Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet program over concerns about Ankara’s plans to purchase a Russian missile system, telling his Turkish counterpart that pilots currently training in the United States must leave the country by July 31 and halting training for new students, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, quoting Foreign policy.
Turkey can still change its mind on purchasing the S-400 missile system, which is expected to arrive on Turkish soil as soon as this month, and the steps regarding F-35 training will be reversed, a senior U.S. defense official said.
The United States has already halted delivery of F-35 materials and related equipment to Turkey. Without the training provided by the U.S. military, future Turkish F-35 pilots will not be able to operate the jet, which will provide the bulk of tactical airpower for the United States and many of its allied militaries for decades to come.
In the meantime, Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program will be all but suspended as of July 31. In a letter signed June 6 to Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s defense minister, Shanahan told Ankara that the 42 Turkish students attending F-35 training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida will be required to depart by that date. At this point, all international travel orders will be cancelled, and Turkish Air Force personnel will be prohibited from entering the bases.
If Turkey, however, receives the S-400 before July 31, this “measured and deliberate” plan will be “nullified,” according to the letter.
Two U.S. defense officials confirmed that Shanahan signed the letter and submitted it to Turkey. Foreign Policy reviewed a detailed list of actions attached to the letter stipulating the steps the United States is planning to take if Turkey moves forward with purchasing the S-400, which U.S. officials say poses a threat to the F-35 and NATO air defenses.
A third U.S. defense official said the steps laid out in the document had been discussed in a prior phone call between the two defense ministers.
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Source: Foreign Policy