Pentagon report on Turkey's F-35 program delivered to Congress - Reuters

The U.S. Defence Department has delivered a report to Congress detailing implications of Turkey receiving 100 F-35 fighter jets, five people familiar with the report told Reuters on Friday. 

Ankara and Moscow signed a $2.5 billion agreement for the sale of the Russian S-400 air defence system to Turkey in December 2017, despite the concerns of Turkey’s NATO allies’, who fear the Russian-made system could damage the NATO defence system’s interoperability and potentially open a backdoor through which Russia could access to NATO military data. 

Turkey is also buying Lockheed Martin F-35 advanced fighter jets from the United States, but Washington has warned the deal could be at risk if Ankara does not drop the S-400 purchase. The U.S. Senate passed a bill in June that could remove Turkey from the F-35 programme if it goes ahead with the purchase of the S-400s.

Turkey’s plans to buy the S-400 system are “extremely problematical” and numerous U.S. officials have discussed the issue with Ankara, but there are no signs that Turkey had changed its mind about buying the Russian system, Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s chief arms buyer, told Reuters. 

According to Lord, the report delivered to the U.S. Congress just lays out facts, rather than offering firm recommendations, Reuters said. 

“We need to work with Congress to decide where we go on that. There will be a strong partnership with Congress, and until we’ve discussed the issue with them...,” Reuters quoted Lord as saying in an interview on the sidelines of a NATO industry conference in Berlin earlier this week.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar announced last month that the deployment of Russian S-400 air defence systems would begin in October 2019 and Turkey had started selecting military personnel for the project.

Two F-35s were handed over to Turkey at a ceremony in Texas in June, and two Turkish pilots had gone to the United States for training. The third and fourth jets are scheduled to be delivered in March next year.