F-35 partners 'very supportive' of U.S. pressure on Turkey - Pentagon
“The U.S. continues to speak with Turkey on a routine basis (and) we have been very clear that the F-35 and the S-400 are incompatible,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon on Friday.
Lord, the United States' chief procurement official, briefed reporters on the Pentagon's acquisition reforms and major programs. Responding to a question on Turkey and the F-35s, Lord said that the other partners in the F-35 consortium were "very supportive" of the pressure that the United States has been putting on Turkey.
Turkey plans to purchase and deploy Russian S-400 defence systems, but Western military and civilians officials have been warning Ankara not to finalise the deal, which they say could give Moscow access to sensitive data on the F-35s and other military hardware.
German newspaper Bild reported on Friday that the Erdoğan government was about to make a u-turn and back out of the S-400 deal. Erdoğan's communication director, Fahrettin Altun, denied these claims, saying "the S-400 procurement is a done deal".
“We have for some time now been working to look at alternate sources of supply for the F-35 supply chain that is inside Turkey right now,” Lord said at the May 10 briefing after admitting that Turkey has been "a very good supplier on the F-35 program.”
At the Pentagon press briefing after Lord's update, the first question was about Turkey and the spat over the F-35 stealth jets.
Lord responded that the United States was continuing talks with Turkey on routine basis.
The U.S. Department of Defense halted the shipment of F-35 parts in early April. Lord said the U.S. administration had been working "for some time" to find alternate sources of supply for the part of the F-35 supply chain currently met by Turkey.
“We see a potential slowing down of some deliveries over the next two years, some potential cost impacts,” she said. “But right now we believe we can minimize both of those and are working on refining” that analysis.
Turkey's planned purchase of the S-400 systems has cast doubts on its original plan to buy 100 F-35A and dozens of F-35Bs.
A total of 14 countries participate in the F-35 program. Out of all of these partners, Turkey is the only partner and NATO ally facing expulsion from the program.
Lord reiterated that the United States still expects Ankara to forgo the S-400 and buy the U.S.-made Patriot air defence system instead.