F-35 cannot operate in same airspace as S-400 – Pompeo
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told a Senate committee that the new generation F-35 stealth fighter jets can not operate in the same airspace as the Russian-built S-400 missile defence system that Tukey has agreed to purchase.
"It is not possible to both fly the F-35 in space where the S-400 is significantly operable," Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Pompeo as saying at the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on Wednesday.
The S-400 deal, signed in December 2017, has been an enduring source of tensions between Ankara and Washington, which fears the presence of Russian-built defence systems in a NATO country could allow Moscow access to defence data gathered from the F-35s and other systems.
U.S. and NATO officials have warned Turkey that the S-400 purchase will lead to its withdrawal from the F-35 supply chain and could lead to other reprisals including sanctions.
Senators have called for sanctions on Turkey if it goes ahead with the purchase under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which targets Russia as well as Iran and North Korea.
"The S-400 is a significant weapons system, and we’ve shared with them, we’ve asked them to go take a look CAATSA, what that might well mean for them," Pompeo said on Wednesday.
Pompeo’s comments came a day after the prospect of sanctions on Turkey for a separate matter was raised by Senators Ben Cardin and Roger Wicker.
Cardin and Wicker introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require sanctions against Turkey if it does not release U.S. citizens and consular workers jailed in Turkey in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016.
The expulsion of Turkey from the F-35 programme would cause delays in the production of up to 75 fighter jets, Navy Vice Admiral Mathias Winter told congress last week.
However, the repercussions would be far more severe for Turkey, which would lose both the 100 F-35s it had on delivery and the income its defence firms are set to earn from participating in the programme.
Turkish companies build several components for the fighter, including parts of the fuselage.