Israel lobbied for Turkey's expulsion from F-35 jet programme - The Times of Israel

Israeli officials lobbied U.S. government officials to oust Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme and suspend the sale of F-35 aircraft to the country to preserve Israel's military superiority in the region, the Times of Israel reported on Thursday, citing Israeli TV Channel 12.

Tensions between NATO allies the United States and Turkey have spiked in recent weeks over Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

The U.S. Congress suspended Turkey’s participation in the F-35 joint manufacturing programme and halted the delivery of the jets to the country after Ankara received its first shipment of S-400s despite U.S. officials' objections. The United States maintains that the Russian air defence systems are not compatible with NATO equipment.

"Israel in recent months lobbied Washington to drop Ankara from the F-35 program after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went ahead with a purchase of a Russian-made missile defense system that would give Turkey advanced air capabilities," the Times of Israel said.

A senior Israeli defence official on May 27 told Haaretz that Israel would like to remain the only country in the Middle East with the F-35 in order to retain its military edge.

Israel is the second country after the United States to obtain the F-35 and among the few privileged to modify the aircraft, known in Israel as the Adir, according to The Times of Israel.

Israel has received 14 custom-built F-35I Adir jets and expects to have 50 by 2024.