The U.S. will cancel the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey after Ankara decided to buy a rival missile defense system from Russia, U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday.
Russia’s S-400 is considered one of the most advanced air-defense systems in the world.
The U.S. has long argued Turkey’s purchase of the Russian system not only risks the security of NATO members, it also violates the 2017 law threatening sanctions for any purchase of sophisticated Russian technology — the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017.
Trump blamed the Obama administration for never reaching a deal to sell a comparable American missile defense system to Turkey.
“Because they have a system of missiles that’s made in Russia, they’re now prohibited from buying over 100 planes,” Trump said of Turkey during in a Cabinet meeting. “I would say that (F-35 manufacturer) Lockheed isn’t exactly happy. That’s a lot of jobs. And frankly I’ve always had a very good relationship” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump said.
Trump said the decision to ban F-35 sales was one he was making reluctantly, as the F-35 is the world’s largest defence program and has already generated $12.9bn worth of orders.
“We are now telling Turkey that because you have really been forced to buy another missile system, we’re not going to sell you the F-35 fighter jets,” the President said. “It’s a very tough situation that they’re in and it’s a very tough situation that we’ve been placed in, the United States. With all of that being said, we’re working through it, we’ll see what happens. But it’s not really fair.”
“Because of the fact he bought a Russian missile, we’re not allowed to sell him billions of dollars worth of aircraft. It’s not a fair situation,” Trump continued.
As Trump confirmed the end of the sale to Turkey, fellow NATO ally UK received a second training squadron of state-of-the-art F-35 Lightning jets at RAF Marham.
The arrival of 207 Squadron will see all training on the next-generation jet conducted in the UK for the first time.
This is the third tranche of F-35s to arrive in the UK.
617 Dambusters Squadron arrived at their new permanent home last year and completed their first operational F-35 mission in the fight against Islamic State in June.