The United States has suspended delivery of F-35 fighter jet parts to Turkey in retaliation for Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of a Russian surface-to-air missile system, U.S. officials said Monday.
Top U.S. government leaders have repeatedly threatened to shut down Turkey’s plan to buy the F-35 advanced fighter aircraft if Turkey didn’t abandon efforts to buy the S-400 Russian system. Halting the delivery of parts and manuals needed to prepare for the aircraft’s planned delivery this summer is the first step toward ending the actual aircraft sale.
The U.S. move comes just days after Turkey's foreign minister said his country was committed to the deal to buy the Russian system and was discussing delivery dates.
American defense and military leaders have said that unless Turkey, a NATO ally, reconsidered its purchase of the S-400, it would forfeit other future American military aircraft and systems. The U.S. and other NATO allies have repeatedly complained about the purchase, saying it is not compatible with other allied systems and would represent a threat to the F-35.
U.S. officials told their Turkish counterparts they will not receive further shipments of F-35 related equipment needed to prepare for the arrival of the stealthy jet, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday.
The Pentagon confirmed the Reuters report that the equipment delivery had been stopped.
“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement.
The disagreement over the F-35 is the latest of a series of diplomatic disputes between the United States and Turkey including Turkish demands that the United States extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, differences over Middle East policy and the war in Syria, and sanctions on Iran.
*Source: AP and Reuters