Overnight Defense: US ratchets up pressure on Turkey over F-35 | Near-collision between Russia, US warships | West Point cadet identified

Overnight Defense: US ratchets up pressure on Turkey over F-35 | Near-collision between Russia, US warships | West Point cadet identified
© Getty

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: 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.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanUS to send 1K additional troops to Middle East amid Iran tensions US to send 1K additional troops to Middle East amid Iran tensions Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments 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 ally 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 wrote.

He said that while the U.S. “greatly values” its partnership with Turkey, the Trump administration is not pleased with the news that Turkey sent personnel to Russia for training on the S-400 system.

Shanahan added that Turkey still has the option to change course on the purchase.

The background: 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. 

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.

Turkish pilots to be pulled: “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.

Further consequences: The U.S. 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 said 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.

 

RUSSIAN DESTROYER, US CRUISER ALMOST COLLIDE IN PHILIPPINE SEA: The U.S. Navy said Friday a Russian destroyer nearly collided with one of its guided missile cruisers after an “unsafe and unprofessional” approach in the Philippine Sea.

While the USS Chancellorsville was recovering a helicopter “on a steady course and speed,” the Russian ship “maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville,” the Navy said in a news release.

The Russian ship “accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance of ~50-100 feet,” forcing the U.S. vessel to “execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision,” the statement added.

Shanahan weighs in: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later on Friday called the behavior "unsafe and unprofessional.”

Shanahan added that the incident will "not deter us from conducting our operations."

"We'll have military-to-military conversations with the Russians, and of course we'll demarche them," he told reporters at the Pentagon prior to meeting with the Greek minister of defense. "To me, safety at the end of the day is the most important." 

Russian’s claim: The Russian Pacific Fleet’s press service released its own account of the incident, saying the U.S. Navy vessel “unexpectedly changed course and crossed the route of Russia's anti-submarine Admiral Vinogradov vessel 50 meters afar" in a “dangerous maneuver,” Radio Free Europe reported.

The incident comes just days after U.S. fighter jets intercepted three Russian jets off the coast of Alaska over the course of two days. 

 

WEST POINT IDENTIFIES CADET WHO DIES IN TRAINING EXERCISE: The U.S. Military Academy on Friday identified the cadet killed this week in a training exercise. 

Cadet Christopher J. Morgan, 22, who was part of the class of 2020, died from injuries he sustained in a military vehicle accident, West Point said in a statement. 

“Cadet Morgan was a valued member of the Corps of Cadets and will be missed by all. The entire community is ensuring that our cadets are being cared for physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Morgan family.”

Morgan was killed and 21 others were injured in the accident that involved a light medium tactical vehicle on Thursday morning. 

 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One House panel approves 3B defense policy bill House panel approves 3B defense policy bill MORE (D-Wash.) will speak to reporters about the Democratic priorities for Wednesday’s markup of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) at 9 a.m. at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C. 

Smith will also speak on the FY-20 NDAA at 2 p.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in D.C.

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Navy investigating War College president over ethics claims: report

-- The Hill: Trump's signature at top of D-Day proclamation raises eyebrows

-- The Hill: Six notable moments from Trump's Europe trip

-- Defense News: Lawmakers order deeper TransDigm probe by DoD watchdog

-- Military Times: Groups join forces to fight military toxic exposure