US says could sanction Turkish defense firms beyond F-35 suppliers

A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

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SULAIMANI – Washington is looking at imposing financial sanctions on Turkish firms beyond those that build parts for the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet, over Ankara’s plans to buy a Russian air defense system, a top Pentagon official said on Monday.

Chief arms buyer Ellen Lord said US officials viewed Turkey as an important NATO ally and urged it to drop its plans to buy the Russian-built S-400 air defense system so that its companies could continue to build critical parts for a wide range of other US weapons systems beside the F-35 fighter jet.

Discussion has focused so far mainly on the high profile F-35 program. But Lord’s comments at the Paris Airshow reflected growing concern in Washington about Turkey’s refusal to reverse its purchase of the S-400 system.

Lord said the issues were being kept separate for now, but an inter-agency US government group was looking at potential sanctions against a wider range of Turkish firms under the US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

“We have bifurcated the S-400 and F-35 impact from (the) impact to the rest of our defense and commercial industry,” Lord told reporters. “Everything outside of the F-35 from a defense perspective, we have reviewed within the department and that would be subject to any CAATSA sanctions.”

She said no decisions had been made, but a decision to proceed with sanctions would hit Turkish industry hard.

“No matter what happens, we’re going to meet our contractual obligations to our customers,” he said.

Rick Edwards, executive vice president of Lockheed’s international division, said the most significant program involving Turkish content was the F-35. But he said the impact to Turkish industry if all US defense orders were canceled would be significant.

“If all American work disappeared ... that would have a pretty severe economic impact on those companies,” he said.

(NRT Digital Media/ Reuters)