Trump signs bill blocking transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday signed a spending bill that blocks the transfer of the country's F-35 new generation fighter jets to Turkey. 

According to a spending bill signed by Trump on Friday, delivery of the jets to Turkey will be blocked until the U.S. secretaries of state and defence submit an update to the report regarding Turkey's purchase of of the S–400 missile defence system from the Russian Federation.

In an earlier report to the Congress in late November, the Pentagon said Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile systems could result in Ankara’s exclusion from the programme to build and operate F-35 advanced fighter jets, as well as affecting its acquisition of other weapons including the Boeing Co.'s CH-47F Chinook helicopter and Lockheed’s F-16 fighter and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

F35s S400

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said there was no turning back on Turkey's decision to purchase the S-400 air defence systems. Turkey expects the delivery of the missiles to start this year.

The Congressional bill requires U.S. departments to include a detailed description of plans for the imposition of sanctions, if Turkey goes ahead with the S-400 systems pursuant to section 231 of the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017 (Public Law 115–44).

Congress has asked the U.S. secretaries to deliver the report by Nov. 1, 2019. 

The same spending bill also blocks the sale of weapons to Erdoğan's security guards unless Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informs Congress that the guards charged with assault on protesters in Washington, DC in May of 2017 have been brought to court. 

Weapons to security details

A U.S. delegation visited Ankara in December, after the U.S. State Department informed the U.S. Congress that it had approved a $3.5-billion sale of Patriot air defence batteries to Turkey. The delegation reportedly set the cancellation of the S-400 deal as a prerequisite for the purchase of the U.S.-made system. 

The informal deadline for the Patriot offer was Feb. 15.

“The Russians said they would deliver the S-400s in a short time both for a very good price and promising technology transfer,” the chairman of the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Volkan Bozkır, told reporters in Ankara last week, following a visit to Washington. “Therefore we signed the deal for the purchase of S-400 systems as it addressed our needs and the main part of the payments have been made, while efforts are going ahead for delivery to Turkey in November.”

According to the latest Congressional bill signed by Trump, the United States will wait until November to make a decision. The Russian S-400s were expected to be delivered to Turkey by July 2019, according to local press reports.

Erdoğan has reiterated his conditions for an agreement to purchase Patriot missile defense systems from the United States. He said technology transfer, co-production and financial support have not been offered by Washington to convince Ankara to purchase the weapons. 

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.