Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan affirmed that if Turkey proceeds with its planned purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system, the S-400, the US will end Turkey’s role in the production of its advanced fighter jet, the F-35.
“If Turkey decides that the S-400 is a decision they want to go forward with,” Shanahan told journalists on Friday, “we have to move work” on the F-35 “out of -Turkey.”
Although no final decision has been made, Shanahan said, the Pentagon was preparing for the possibility that Turkey would be dropped entirely from the program.
“If we can't get a resolution to the situation,” he said, “we need to execute our plans, in terms of moving the work.”
Shanahan’s comments stand in strong contrast to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim on Tuesday, after a conversation with US President Donald Trump, that the F-35 program was “bound to collapse” without Turkey’s participation.
In addition, Congressional pressure is building against the Turkish acquisition of the S-400. Three senior members of the House Armed Services Committee introduced a bill on Friday that would prohibit delivery of the F-35 to Turkey if it purchases the S-400.
Both the House and Senate bills are called the “Protecting NATO Skies Act of 2019.”
Garamendi similarly stated, “Operating the S-400 alongside the F-35 would compromise the aircraft and its sensitive technology, impact interoperability among NATO allies, and most importantly pose a serious risk to our shared defense and security.”
“Proceeding with the S-400 is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” he concluded.
If that indeed does happen, Turkey will not receive the F-35, and it will forfeit the money that it has invested in the program.