WASHINGTON, (BM) – A group of US senators from both parties called on the Pentagon to stop purchasing components of F-35 fighter jets from Turkey, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
In a letter sent to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday, lawmakers warned the Pentagon that any plans to purchase components of F-35 fighter jets from Turkey undermine US pressure on the country in connection with its purchase of the Russian S-400 defense system.
Recall that earlier the United States officially excluded Turkey from the multinational program in 2019 for the deal with S-400, and it stopped training on a jet plane for Turkish pilots.
A letter signed by Democratic Senators Gene Shahin and Chris Van Hollen, Republican Senators James Lankford and Tom Tillis, which indicated that Under Secretary of State Ellen Lord said the Department would terminate Turkey’s participation in early 2020. However, this promise was not fulfilled, the letter indicated.
Instead, a Pentagon official recently announced that Turkish contractors will continue to produce key components for F-35 fighters until the end of 2022.
In a letter, lawmakers also pointed to a violation of human rights by the Turkish government, adding that they “remain concerned about the direction that Turkey is taking under the leadership of President (Recep Tayyip – ed.) Erdogan.”
“From human rights violations in Syria and Iraq to arbitrary arrests of Americans in Ankara and defense cooperation with Russia, Turkey does not act as a responsible entity and does not cooperate with the West at the level that we expect from a NATO ally,” the letter said.
We add that Turkey planned to purchase about 100 F-35 aircraft, which would make it one of the four largest foreign customers of fighter jets, but before it was excluded from the program last year, the company delivered under the contract only six aircraft. The US said the Russian S-400 air defense system is incompatible with NATO systems and threatens the secrecy of new fighters.
Turkey, in turn, challenged this and stated that the S-400s would not be integrated into NATO’s defense system. Turkey previously stated that it would commission Russian missile defense systems in April, but such a step has not yet been taken.
The Pentagon confirmed that Turkey continues to produce parts for the F-35 fighter jet
US will not refuse to purchase F-35 combat aircraft parts manufactured in Turkey until 2022, US Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said on June 30.
According to Andrews, the decision to not break the agreements concluded with Turkey was made by the Pentagon at the end of 2019. The lieutenant colonel explained that an immediate termination of contracts would be costly and destructive for the American army.
A Pentagon spokesman said the US has identified alternative sources of supply for the F-35 parts that are currently being manufactured in Turkey. As Turkish contracts expire, the U.S. Army will enter into new contracts with other manufacturers.
According to Pentagon officials, Turkish companies produce 817 out of 24,000 F-35 body parts, and 188 out of 3,000 engine parts.
The financial side of the problem
If Turkey is ejected from the F-35 program, it would deal an immediate blow to the production rate for new planes and place fresh stress on an already strained supply chain, Vice Adm. Mat Winter said on April 5 2019.
In the latest in the ongoing controversy over how the US and NATO might react if Turkey goes ahead with its planned purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, F-35 program manager Vice Adm. Mathias Winter told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that “the evaluation of Turkey stopping would be between 50- and 75-airplane impact over a two-year period.”
That hit to production comes from the 6 percent to 7 percent of the aircraft’s parts that are made in Turkey, Winter said, and “we would see within 45 to 90 days an impact of the slowing down or stopping of those parts to the three production lines.”
The loss of those parts would be felt acutely as the approximately 3,000 suppliers working on the F-35 “are struggling with the demand signal on them,” Winter added, as more planes enter service and older ones are increasingly in need of repair.
Russian and Western technologies cannot be compatible
If Turkey acquired the S-400 alongside the F-35, the technology that makes that aircraft lethal could potentially be compromised. This opinion was expressed by hundreds of experts last year, including us.
NATO states use a tactical data link that allows military aircraft and even ships and ground troops to share their tactical pictures in near-real time. This is called Link 16. NATO aircraft also use Identification Friend or Foe systems, known as IFF, to identify friendly aircraft in the sky.
An IFF and Link 16 interrogator would have to be integrated into the S-400 system to allow the Turkish F-35, with the transponder, to fly within lethal range of the S-400.
This opens up all Link 16 and IFF tactical data link equipment to be compromised, a former radar and weapons expert said on background.
“With the F-35 flying in close proximity to the S-400 system, over time, you could collect sensitive stealth characteristics of this F-35 and learn its detailed stealth capabilities,” the expert said.
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