The Trump administration has laid out to the Turkish government how it will pull the nation from all participation in the F-35 joint strike fighter program should Ankara receive a Russian-made missile defense system, the Pentagon announced Friday.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanProtection of critical military benefit shows bipartisanship can work Senators introducing bill to penalize Pentagon for failed audits Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE on Thursday sent a list to the Turkish defense minister detailing actions the United States will take to suspend Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program by July 31 if the NATO partner takes delivery of Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system.
“While we seek to maintain our valued relationship, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400,” Shanahan writes.
He says that while the United States “greatly values” its partnership with Turkey, the administration is not pleased with the news that Turkey sent personnel to Russia for training on the S-400 system.
Shanahan adds that Turkey still has the option to change course on the purchase.
Ankara in recent months has doubled down on its plan to buy the S-400, which is not compatible with NATO systems and U.S. officials fear will allow Moscow to gather information on Lockheed Martin-made F-35 Lightning II fighters should Turkey receive the advanced aircraft.
Shanahan reiterates this concern in the letter.
“In addition to threatening the security of platforms like the F-35, Turkey's procurement of the S-400 will hinder your nation's ability to enhance or maintain cooperation with the United States and within NATO, lead to Turkish strategic and economic over-dependence on Russia, and undermine Turkey's very capable defense industry and ambitious economic development goals,” he writes.
The United States has been pressuring Turkey to instead buy the U.S.-made Patriot system, but talks between the two sides have not gone well. This prompted the Pentagon in April to suspend deliveries and activities related to Turkey’s role in the F-35 program.
As part of the latest threat from Washington, it has stopped accepting Turkish applicants for a training program that teaches pilots to fly the F-35. There are currently 42 Turkish students attending such training.
The new timeline will enable 30 students currently in training to complete their courses prior to departing the United States by July 31, with the remaining 12 to be reassigned.
Shanahan also said that the Pentagon has “informed the Ministry of National Defense that we do not recommend starting any new training programs for Turkish personnel on the F-35 in the United States as we anticipate they would be recalled in the near future.”
There were 34 students scheduled to begin F-35 training later this year, including 20 this month and 14 between July and November 2019.
The U.S. government will also not plan for Turkish participation in the annual F-35 chief executive officer roundtable on June 12, and updates to the program's governing documents will go forward without Turkey's input in order “to facilitate an orderly cessation of Turkish participation in the programmatic management activities of the F-35 program.”
Shanahan also threatens that should Turkey buy the S-400, it will result in “a loss in jobs, gross domestic product, and international trade,” stemming from Russia-related Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions.
Turkey plans to eventually buy at least 100 of the F-35 and is also expected to play a significant role in sustaining the fighter further down the road.
A potential cancellation of the sale has enormous financial implications for both Washington and Ankara.
“There is strong bipartisan U.S. Congressional determination to see CAATSA sanctions imposed on Turkey if Turkey acquires the S-400,” Shanahan writes. “President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE committed to boost bilateral trade from $20 billion currently to more than $75 billion, however that may be challenging if the United States imposes CAATSA sanctions.”