Mar 12 2019

Turkey may never get its U.S.-made F-35s - analyst

Turkey’s decision to buy Russia’s S-400 missile defence system has led to serious backlash in the United States, which is worried about its technology and seems increasingly likely to block the transfer of its F-35 jets to Turkey, news site War on the Rocks said in an analysis on Tuesday.

“Beyond the current deep freeze in U.S.-Russian ties, some in the United States worry that Turkey’s operation of the American F-35 aircraft in range of the S-400’s powerful radar, which is reportedly capable of collecting electronic intelligence, will allow Russia to collect and exploit data about America and NATO’s future front line fighter,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East programme at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, wrote for the website.

Last week, the commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, said that if Turkey went ahead with its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system, Washington should not follow through with the F-35 fighter jets.

Turkey is set to receive its first two F-35s at the end of this year, while the Russian S-400s are set to arrive in July. Ankara has dismissed U.S. concerns and refused to budge.

“Ankara’s reassurances have failed to assuage the concerns about sensitive information on the F-35 ending up in Russian hands,” wrote Stein, citing interviews with key officials. “Indeed, it seems increasingly likely that Washington will block the transfer of the jets to Turkey ... undermining a key element of the modern Turkish-American alliance: defence industrial cooperation.”

The delivery of the S-400 to Turkey could prompt sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), as U.S. officials have repeatedly warned Ankara, possibly eroding U.S.-Turkish defence cooperation across many projects.

“Denying the aircraft to Turkey would undoubtedly help protect its secrets from potential Russian compromise, but would also signal to Turkey that it cannot be entrusted to safeguard Western defence equipment because of its friendship with Russia,” wrote Stein.