US expels Turkey from F-35 programme after S-400 purchase

Harry Lye 18 July 2019 (Last Updated July 18th, 2019 16:05)

The US has expelled Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme in retaliation for the country accepting delivery of the Russian S-400 missile system, as reported by Air Force Technology last week.

US expels Turkey from F-35 programme after S-400 purchase
US expels Turkey from F-35 programme Credits: USAF / Senior Airman Alexander Cook.

The US has expelled Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme in retaliation for the country accepting delivery of the Russian S-400 missile system, as reported by Air Force Technology.

The move will have severe effects on the F-35 supply chain as currently around 900 parts for the fighter are made in Turkey. The Pentagon said that relocating the manufacture of those components from Turkey to the US and other states could cost upwards of $600m, which could lead to a near 10% rise in the overall cost of the project.

The US insisted it still values Turkey as a strategic partner despite the country’s ejection from the F-35 programme.

US under-secretary of defence Ellen Lord said: “Since early 2017, when Turkey began publicly discussing its interests in the Russian-made S-400 system, all levels of the US government have consistently communicated that the F-35 and the S-400 are incompatible.

“As other US officials and I have clearly said, Turkey cannot field a Russian intelligence-collection platform in proximity to where the F-35 programme makes, repairs and houses the F-35.”

An official from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded: “We invite the US to return from this mistake which would open irreparable wounds in strategic relations.”

On Wednesday a White House spokesperson said Turkey’s purchase and integration of the S-400 “renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible”.

The spokesperson added: “The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities”.

Manufactured by prime contractor Lockheed Martin, the F-35 is the largest and most expensive weapons programme in history, leaving Turkey’s economy set to take an economic hit due to its defence industries heavy investment in the fighter jet.

Turkey says it purchased the S-400 as the US was too slow to offer alternative anti-air defence systems, despite the US repeatedly pushing for the country to buy the Patriot missile system.

The White House said: “This administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the US Patriot air defence system”.

The US has yet to say whether or not it will apply further sanctions on Turkey as is expected under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).