Senate defense bill would pull Turkey from F-35 partnership if it buys Russian missile system

Senate defense bill would pull Turkey from F-35 partnership if it buys Russian missile system
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The Senate Armed Services Committee is looking to block the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey and cut Ankara from its partnership in the program if the NATO ally continues with its plan to buy a Russian missile defense system.

The committee’s draft $750 billion fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — advanced Wednesday and unveiled on Thursday — would prohibit the sale of the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 Lightning II to Ankara should it buy Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system.

The bill's language, led by Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel MORE (D-N.H.), dictates that the sale could only move ahead should the Defense secretary and secretary of State confirm that Turkey has not accepted the Russian system and will not buy it in the future.

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The bill would also pull Turkey from the list of countries that have jointly built the F-35.

A senior committee aide told reporters on Thursday that the language to prevent the sale is “very strong,” and would not allow the administration to bypass the authority should it be signed into law.

“I don’t know what more the committee could have done,” the aide said.

"As long as President Erdogan continues to move ahead with plans to acquire the S-400 Russian air defense system, any transfer of F-35 aircraft, equipment or supplies must be off the table,” Shaheen said in a statement.

“This measure has broad bipartisan support because both Democrats and Republicans understand the clear threats posed by introducing F-35s into airspace that will be closely monitored and controlled by the Russians through the S-400 system," she said.

Ankara in recent months has doubled down on its plan to buy the S-400, which U.S. officials fear will allow Moscow to gather information on the F-35 should Washington allow Turkey to take delivery of the advanced fighter jet. The United States has been pressuring Turkey to buy the U.S.-made Patriot system instead.

Talks between the two sides, however, have not gone well, and last month the Pentagon suspended deliveries and activities related to Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program.

The Senate’s defense bill also authorizes 94 F-35s for the U.S. military, 16 more than the administration requested, according to the bill’s summary. That is broken down into 60 F-35As for the Air Force, 12 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps and 22 F-35Cs for the Navy. 

In addition, the bill would approve spending on eight F-15X fighter jets. 

Updated: 5:17 p.m.