Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Tuesday he expects the U.S. and Turkey will resolve an ongoing row over Ankara’s decision to purchase a Russian surface-to-air missile system.
The U.S. suspended shipments to Turkey of equipment necessary to the procurement of the F-35 stealth fighter jet fighter Tuesday because of Ankara’s intent to buy Russia’s S-400 anti-air system.
But Shanahan told reporters he thinks Washington and Ankara will “solve the problem so that they have the right defense equipment in terms of Patriots and F-35s.”
Following protracted efforts to purchase air defense systems from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the the S-400.
Ankara is also planning to purchase 100 F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. and its pilots are currently training on the weapons platform in Arizona.
Washington has repeatedly cautioned Turkey against the purchase of the S-400, warning it might be used to covertly obtain critical information on the F-35, including its detection range, which could then be relayed to Russia.
Turkey first joined the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program in 2002 and has invested more than $1.25 billion. It also manufactures various aircraft parts for all F-35 variants and customers.
The Pentagon said as part of its announcement Tuesday it is currently developing additional sources to replace the Turkish-produced F-35 components.
Two F-35s have already been delivered to Turkey and are currently at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where Turkish pilots are being trained. The jets were scheduled to be transferred in November this year.
Asked what will happen to the stealth aircraft, Shanahan said he expects that they will be delivered.
“I am very confident in the Patriot proposal that we’ve delivered to Turkey, its availability, it’s pricing, and very importantly, the industrial participation that comes along with the Patriot system,” Shanahan said.