The U.S. announced Monday that it has suspended “deliveries and activities” related to Turkey’s procurement of the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter jet over Ankara’s plans to buy Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
“We very much regret the current situation facing our F-35 partnership with Turkey, and the DoD is taking prudent steps to protect the shared investments made in our critical technology,” Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers said in a statement, referring to the Department of Defense.
“Should Turkey procure the S-400, their continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk.”
Following protracted efforts to purchase air defense systems from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 air defense system.
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 at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
Washington has long cautioned Turkey against the purchase of the S-400, warning it might be used to covertly obtain critical information on the F-35, including their detection range, which could then be relayed to Russia.
“The United States has been clear that Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 is unacceptable,” Summers said. “Therefore, the DoD has initiated steps necessary to ensure prudent program planning and resiliency of the F-35 supply chain.”
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.
Summers said the Pentagon 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. These jets were scheduled to be transferred in November this year.
Two more jets are expected to be delivered soon.