Shanahan: Turkey will drop purchase of Russian missile system amid F-35 pressure

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: US shoots down Iranian drone | Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia | Trump mulls Turkey sanctions | Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet MORE on Tuesday indicated that he expects Turkey to abandon its plans to buy a Russian air defense system, a day after Washington halted all deliveries of F-35 fighter aircraft equipment to the NATO ally over the purchase.

Shanahan said he was “very confident” that Turkey would choose to buy the American-made Patriot anti-missile system over Russia’s S-400 long-range air defense system. 

“I expect we'll solve the problem so that they have the right defense equipment in terms of Patriots and F-35s,” Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon prior to meeting with his Mongolian counterpart.

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The United States has been pressuring Ankara for years to give up its plans to buy the S-400, which defense officials have said will be used to gather closely guarded information on the F-35. U.S. officials have instead offered Turkey the Patriot system at a discounted rate.

Turkish officials, however, have repeatedly said they will not back out on their deal with the Russians, prompting Washington on Monday to freeze delivery of F-35 equipment to Turkey. 

“The United States has been clear that Turkey's acquisition of the S-400 is unacceptable … We very much regret the current situation facing our F-35 partnership with Turkey, and the DoD is taking prudent steps to protect the shared investments made in our critical technology,” chief Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers said in a statement at the time.

There is wide consensus from top U.S. military leaders that Turkey should not get the F-35 if it follows through with buying the S-400. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Gen. Tod Wolters — the nominee to take command of NATO forces and U.S. forces in Europe — told lawmakers that the American and Russian systems “are not compatible.”

“If Turkey proceeds down a path to procure and operate the S-400, they should not get the F-35,” Wolters told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing. Wolters currently serves as commander of U.S. air forces in Europe and Africa.

But Shanahan said he has “had a number of conversations with [Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar] and I really think we'll resolve this situation with our strategic partners.”

He added that he expects Washington will eventually deliver F-35s currently at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., to Turkey.

Ankara received its first two F-35s last year as part of an official ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, but the aircraft are not expected to be delivered until the end of 2019, when its pilots are trained to fly it. That training is still ongoing at Luke Air Force Base.