Should Turkey decide to purchase a Russian anti-air system, it would risk being unable to access a wide gamut of U.S.-supplied weapons systems, including the F-35, the top U.S. general for Europe said Tuesday.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee should Turkey take delivery of the S-400 it would “potentially forfeit many of the other systems, and one of the most important systems that we provide them,” alluding to the F-35.
“I would hope that they reconsider this one decision on S-400,” Scaparrotti, who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander, said.
Scaparrotti pointed to several problems the Russian system poses, including a lack of interoperability with NATO systems, and said the S-400 is “a problem to all of our aircraft, but specifically the F-35, I believe.
“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it, or working with an ally that is working with Russian systems, particularly air defense systems, with one of our most advanced technological capabilities,” he said.
Washington has cautioned the S-400 system might covertly obtain critical information on the advanced fighter jets, including their detection range, which could then be relayed to Russia.
After protracted efforts to purchase air defense systems from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week Ankara and Washington have begun negotiating the potential purchase of Patriot missile defense systems from the U.S.
The State Department approved in December a possible $3.5 billion sale of Patriot systems to Turkey that includes advanced radar systems, control centers, launching systems and guided missiles.
Ankara is planning to purchase 100 F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. pending congressional approval, and its pilots are currently training on the weapons platform at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
Turkish firms also supply the F-35 program with key components, including airframe structures and assemblies, and the center fuselages.
Asked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen who “picks up that slack if Turkey can’t receive the F-35,” Scaparrotti said the issue is currently being considered.
“This is a huge decision for Turkey,” he said. “It connects in many different ways to the employment and the integration that they have within the system itself.”