State Department approves $3.5B Patriot missile sales to Turkey amid tensions

The State Department has approved a possible deal to sell Turkey a Patriot air and missile defense system, potentially worth up to $3.5 billion, officials told Congress on Tuesday.

The sale, if approved and signed, could lead to Turkey scrapping intentions to buy the Russian-made S-400 long-range air-defense system, officials say.

That potential sale that has long worried the Trump administration, adding to tensions between the two countries.

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Turkey has said since last December it intended to buy the S-400, a sale that worried NATO members because the system is not interoperable with its defense systems, including the F-35. Turkey is a partner in the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter program to build the F-35, of which Ankara intends to buy

The S-400 could also provide a way to steal F-35 technology should the aircraft be synced with it, officials feared.

Turkey has not indicated whether it would give up on the S-400 sale.

Washington and Ankara have also tangled over U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

The United States relies on the Kurdish forces in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and has aided them. But Turkey, which considers them terrorists, this week threatened that the country could launch an attack on the Syrian Kurds at “anytime.”

Congress now has 15 days to review the pending Patriot sale, which includes 80 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced Missiles, 60 PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles and related equipment.

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a key NATO Ally on the front lines of the fight against terrorism,” according to the notice from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Pentagon agency that handles foreign military sales.

“Turkey is a member of and critical enabling platform for the Defeat-ISIS campaign and continues to be an essential element of our National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy efforts to compete against great powers in both Europe and the Middle East.”