WASHINGTON, (BM) – The Pentagon would consider allowing Turkey to rejoin the F-35 program only if the Russian-made S-400 air defense system is completely removed from Turkish soil, meaning the government in Ankara could not simply keep the systems deactivated in warehouses, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, quoting Defense 360 U.S.
“They have to, again, get rid of the S-400 program and completely out of the country [before] we could consider that,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told press when asked about the possibility Turkey could find a way to again be part of the Joint Strike Fighter program.
“I have been very clear in both my public comments and privately with my Turkish counterpart: It’s either the F-35 or the S-400,” he said. “It’s not both. It’s not park one in the garage and roll the other one out. It’s one or the other. So we are where we are, and it’s regrettable.”
Turkey, a partner in the F-35 program that helped fund the development of the jet, planned to buy 100 F-35As. However, a decision by Ankara to purchase the S-400 threw a political bomb into the F-35 acquisition plan; the U.S. and its NATO allies expressed major concerns about the Russian system sharing airspace with the alliance’s newest fighter.
In July, Turkey took possession of the first S-400 pieces, and the U.S. formally kicked the country out of the F-35 program. As a result, by March 2020, Turkey’s industrial participation in the F-35 program will be done, with work shifted to U.S. companies.
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Source: Defense 360 U.S.