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Exclusive: U.S. may soon pause preparations for delivering F-35s to Turkey

Exclusive: U.S. may soon pause preparations for delivering F-35s to Turkey

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – America may quickly freeze preparations for delivering F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, officers advised Reuters, in what could be the strongest sign but by Washington that Ankara can not have each the superior plane and Russia’s S-400 air protection system.

FILE PHOTO: A Lockheed Martin F-35 plane is seen on the ILA Air Present in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt -/File Picture

America is nearing an inflection level in a years-long standoff with Turkey, a NATO ally, after up to now failing to sway President Tayyip Erdogan that purchasing a Russian air protection system would compromise the safety of F-35 plane.

“The S-400 is a pc. The F-35 is a pc. You don’t hook your laptop to your adversary’s laptop and that’s mainly what we’d be doing,” Katie Wheelbarger, performing assistant secretary of protection for worldwide safety affairs, advised Reuters.

Whereas no choice has been made but, U.S. officers confirmed that Washington was contemplating halting steps now underway to prepared Turkey to obtain the F-35, which is constructed by Lockheed Martin Corp.

“There (are) choices that come up continually about issues being delivered in anticipation of them finally taking custody of the planes,” stated Wheelbarger.

“So there’s a variety of issues in practice that may be paused to ship indicators to them (that we’re critical),” she added, with out detailing these steps.

Nevertheless, one other U.S. official stated one of many measures the USA was taking a look at was alternate options to an engine depot in Turkey, with out giving extra particulars. The official stated any potential alternate options would possible be someplace in Western Europe. Turkey is house to an F-35 engine overhaul depot within the western metropolis of Eskisehir.

If Turkey was faraway from the F-35 program, it will be essentially the most critical disaster within the relationship between the 2 allies in a long time, in line with Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey mission on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research.

The strains on ties between Washington and Ankara already prolong past the F-35 to incorporate technique in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of U.S. consular employees.

“This (the F-35 standoff) is known as a symptom, not a reason for the issue between the 2 international locations,” Aliriza stated.

Many U.S. officers, talking on situation of anonymity, fear that Turkey is drifting away from NATO and watch bettering relations between Ankara and Moscow with concern. The prospect of Russian contractors or officers on Turkish bases that are also house to the F-35 is unfathomable to many U.S. officers.

The tensions may additional escalate. If Ankara goes forward with the Russian deal, Turkey additionally may face U.S. sanctions.

ERDOGAN IMPASSE

Regardless of U.S. hopes that Turkey should still forgo the S-400, consultants say Erdogan might have already backed himself right into a rhetorical nook. He has repeatedly stated he wouldn’t reverse course on the S-400, saying earlier in March: “No one ought to ask us to lick up what we spat.”

A choice to drop Turkey from the F-35 program would have broader repercussions, since Ankara helps manufacture elements for the plane, together with parts of the touchdown gear, cockpit shows and plane engines.

Wheelbarger acknowledged that the Pentagon, in mild of the standoff, was trying “throughout the board” at potential alternate suppliers for F-35 elements, together with in different NATO international locations.

“It’s prudent program planning…to make sure that you may have stability in your provide chain,” she stated, with out speculating that Turkey may be dropped from this system.

Washington has sought to influence Turkey to buy the American-made Raytheon Co Patriot protection system, as a substitute of S-400s. Erdogan has stated that Turkey was nonetheless open to purchasing Patriot methods from the USA however provided that the circumstances are appropriate.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon stated that along with the Patriot air protection system, the American supply “contains important government-to-government cooperation on superior system improvement.”

Though Turkey has held out the prospect of shopping for each the S-400 and the Patriot system, the USA has warned Turkey it should take its supply of Patriots off the desk until it adjustments course.

A Turkish S-400 buy may additionally set off a battle with the U.S. Congress, which has already blocked all main arms gross sales to Ankara whereas the S-400 deal is pending.

Lawmakers may renew makes an attempt to introduce laws that may legally prohibit the Trump administration from permitting Turkey to have the F-35 if it secures the S-400s.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; further reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Enhancing by Mary Milliken and Alistair Bell

Our Requirements:The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.

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