The United States on Friday gave Turkey until the end of July to abandon its purchase of a major Russian missile defense system, which Washington considers incompatible with Ankara’s participation in the F-35 fighter jet program.
If by July 31 Turkey does not renounce the S-400 system, Turkish pilots training in the United States on the F-35 will be expelled, and agreements with Turkish firms subcontracted for manufacturing the F-35 stealth warplane will be cancelled, Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters.
Lord said the deadline “will allow sufficient time for Turkish personnel associated with the F-35 program to be reassigned and depart the United States… to facilitate an orderly cessation of Turkish participation.”
She justified the US ultimatum by the fact that Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, had already sent its personnel to Russia to start training with the S-400.
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was “determined” to proceed with the Russia deal.
US officials have said they expected Turkey to opt for the American Patriot air defense system instead, arguing that would allow the F-35 program to continue.
Turkey plans to buy 100 US F-35s and its defense industry has invested significantly in the warplanes’ production.
Erdogan said he told the US that Ankara would take steps to buy Patriots only if Washington’s conditions of delivery were as positive as Moscow’s.
“But unfortunately we haven’t received a positive proposal from the American side on the subject of Patriots like the S-400s from Russia,” he said.
Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he had sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar informing him of Washington’s decision.
The US offer for the Patriots was “very competitive,” Shanahan told reporters. (AFP)