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Turkey will lose F-35 warplane if Russia arms deal goes ahead, US says

FILE PHOTO: A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo
2019-06-25

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SULAIMANI — The United States will stop Turkish forces flying and developing its F-35 stealth jets if Ankara goes ahead with the purchase of a Russian air defense system, the US envoy to NATO said on Tuesday (June 25).

Washington and its allies have urged fellow NATO member Ankara not to install the S-400 Russian system, saying that would let the technology learn how to recognize the jets, which are built to avoid tracking by enemy radars and heat sensors, according to Reuters.

But Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan has refused to budge, exacerbating a diplomat rift already widening over conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of US consular staff.

“Everything indicates that Russia is going to deliver the system to Turkey and that will have consequences,” the US Ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, told reporters in Brussels.

“There will be a disassociation with the F-35 system, we cannot have the F-35 affected or destabilized by having this Russian system in the alliance,” she said.

The United States says the jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., give NATO forces a number of technological advantages in the air, including the ability to disrupt enemy communications networks and navigation signals.

Turkey produces parts of the F-35s fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays. Hutchison said Ankara was an important partner in that production but that security concerns about Russia were paramount.

“So many of us have tried to dissuade Turkey,” she said.

The Pentagon has already stopped training Turkish pilots on the jets.

Erdogan is expected to discuss the issue with US President Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Japan this week. One senior NATO diplomat said that was probably the last chance of finding a way out.

NATO defense ministers, who meet for two days in Brussels from Wednesday, are not planning to formally raise the issue, but there could be some diplomacy in informal meetings, diplomats said.

“It’s not over until its over, but so far Turkey has not appeared to retract from the sale,” Hutchison. “The consequences will occur, we don’t feel there’s a choice in that.”

(NRT Digital Media/Reuters)