United States starts to backtrack on F-35 project for Turkey

Turkey's S-400 purchase creates unacceptable risks US

US stops accepting new Turkish pilots to train on F-35 fighter jets

Last week, a top Pentagon official said the consequences would be "devastating" for Turkey's joint F-35 fighter program and its cooperation with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation if the country goes ahead with plans to buy the Russian missile defense system.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Friday wrote to his Turkish counterpart, warning him of the consequences Ankara would face if it did not step back from a deal to buy a Russian air defense system.

"While we seek to maintain our valued relationship, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400", Shanahan wrote in a letter to his Turkish counterpart Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal.

The two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have sparred publicly for months over Turkey's order for Russia's S-400 air defence system, which Washington says poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy.

The US and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partners have been alarmed at Turkey's decision to buy the S-400, saying that operating it in close proximity to the F-35 would give Russian technicians critical insight into how to detect and track the stealthy F-35.

Ankara confirmed last month that Turkish military personnel were receiving training in Russia to use the S-400, and that Russian personnel may go to Turkey. A planned 34 new students will not be allowed to start training.

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Lord, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, cited the long-standing partnership between the U.S. and Turkey, stating that relations remain strong as U.S. Air Force pilots are gearing up to train alongside Turkish pilots in the upcoming Exercise Anatolian Eagle.

According to the U.S. military, cited by Reuters, four Turkish pilots are now training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

The Pentagon believes that it can minimize the impact on the broader program if Turkey abides by the USA timeline.

Shanahan said the parameters also restrict Turkey from participating in the annual F-35 Chief Executive Officer Roundtable on June 12.

It would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship with the United States, experts said.

Strains in ties between the USA and Ankara already extend beyond the F-35 to include conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of USA consular staff in Turkey.

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In addition to Turkey contributing funds up-front as an F-35 development partner, it plans to buy 100 of the F-35A model for its air forces and is developing new munitions specifically for the jet.

Erdogan said on Tuesday the United States had not "given us an offer as good as the S-400s".

The Turkish lira declined as much as 1.5 percent on Friday before recovering some losses. The currency has shed almost 10% of its value against the dollar this year in part on fraying diplomatic ties and the risk of US sanctions if Turkey accepts delivery of the S-400s.

Turkish industries produce 937 parts for the F-35, including items for the landing gear and fuselage, she said. The United States is now planning to move that production elsewhere, ending Turkey's manufacturing role by early next year. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains committed to going through with the deal.

Shanahan further noted that all of these actions are exclusively based on Turkey's plan to buy the S-400, and are "separate from Russia-related Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions ACT", or CAATSA.

The US move came after Russian Federation announced it will deliver S-400 systems to Turkey in two months. That will include the planned delivery this summer of the first two operational F-35 models owned by Turkey that have been used at Luke for training.

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