US Move to Exclude Turkey from F-35 Program Contradicts Spirit of Alliance, FM Says
(Source: Daily Sabah; published July 17, 2019)
ISTANBUL --- Ankara on Wednesday rebuked the United States for its decision to exclude Turkey from the F-35 program over its purchase of an S-400 missile defense system from Russia.

"This unilateral step is incompatible with the spirit of alliance and does not rely on any legitimate justification," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, rejecting Washington's claim that Turkey's purchase of the S-400 system would weaken the F-35 program.

"The fact that our proposal to establish a working group with NATO to discuss this issue has been left unrequited is the most obvious indicator of the prejudice on the U.S. side and the lack of will to resolve this issue in good faith," the ministry said.

The statement said the U.S. commitment to its strategic partnership with Turkey must go beyond just words, especially in the fight against terror groups such as Daesh, the PKK, People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

"We call on the the U.S. to take back this mistake, which is bound to inflict unrepairable harm on our relationship," the ministry said.

The White House said Wednesday that it is no longer possible for Turkey to be involved in the F-35 program, citing Ankara's decision to purchase the Russian S-400 air defense system as the main reason behind the decision.

"The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities," the White House said in a statement, adding that the U.S. has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defense solutions to meet its legitimate air defense needs.

The White House's statement highlighted Turkey's stance as a trusted partner and NATO ally for over six decades.

"The United States still greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey. As NATO Allies, our relationship is multi-layered, and not solely focused on the F-35."

The statement continued by saying that the U.S. will continue to maintain strong relations with Turkey.

"The U.S. still values the strategic partnership with Turkey despite removal from F-35 program," Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord told reporters in a news conference following the White House statement.

"Much of the F-35's strength lies in its stealth capabilities," said Lord. "So the ability to detect those capabilities would jeopardize the long-term security of the F-35 program."

F-35 program countries were in "consensus" on Turkey's removal, Lord said.

In the short-term Turkey's share of F-35 parts production will be shifted to U.S. suppliers "but this will gradually open up to program partners," Lord said, noting that Turkey's removal will have "minimal impact" on the overall program.

Lord continued by saying that all Turkish F-35 students and instructor pilots currently in the U.S. will leave the country and the 20 personnel at the joint program office will no longer retain access to facilities.

"We are proceeding with a very orderly wind-down by March 2020," Lord said. She would not comment on whether Turkey could get back into the program by giving up the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

The status of the money Turkey put down to purchase the fifth-generation aircraft is uncertain, however, with the Pentagon official saying only that "we're discussing the specifics about the aircraft they have purchased so far."

Turkey stands to lose over $9 billion in program work share from the over 900 parts it was to make over the life of the program, she added.

"This is a specific response to a specific action," Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy David Trachtenberg said, insisting the U.S. remained committed to its strategic partnership with Turkey.

Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system.

After the purchase, U.S. officials advised Turkey to buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400s, arguing the Russian system would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.

But Turkey has emphasized that the S-400s would not be integrated into NATO operability and would not pose a threat to the alliance. It has also repeatedly said it was ready to discuss Washington's concerns. It proposed forming a joint working group with Washington to assess whether the S-400s would pose a threat to NATO; however, the U.S. has not taken any steps to form the technical team.

The delivery of S-400 components began last week and is ongoing with 14 shipments of related equipment so far having landed in Turkey over the last six days.

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Turkey Calls U.S. Action to Exclude Ankara from F-35 Program 'Unfair'
(Source: Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty; issued July 17, 2019)
Turkey has condemned as "unfair" a U.S. move to exclude it from the American-led F-35 stealth fighter jet program following Ankara’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air-defense system.

"This one-sided step neither complies with the spirit of alliance nor is it based on legitimate reasons," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on July 17.

"It is unfair to remove Turkey, one of the partners in the F-35 program," the ministry said as it rejected assertions that the S-400 system would be a danger to NATO-operated F-35s.

"We invite the U.S. to take back this error which will pave the way to irreparable damage to our strategic relations," the Turkish ministry added.

The United States earlier on July 17 said that Turkey's decision to acquire the Russian-made air-defense system "renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible."

U.S. and NATO military officials have long opposed Turkey's involvement with the S-400, saying it was not compatible with alliance systems and would endanger the F-35 jets themselves. Washington said a purchase would automatically require the United States to set sanctions against Ankara.

The White House statement did not say explicitly that Turkey would be thrown out of the F-35 program, although the Pentagon did.

"The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program," said Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

Lord also that that Ankara's participation will be over by early next year.

"We are proceeding with a very orderly wind-down by March 2020," she said.

Turkey received the first three shipments of S-400 components on July 12 and a fourth shipment on July 13, defying threats of sanctions from the United States.

Turkey makes numerous components for the stealth aircraft, and the United States will have to find alternative suppliers.

The Pentagon said shifting F-35 production work from Turkey will cost $500 million to $600 million.

Turkey has also ordered more than 100 of the F-35 jets for $1.4 billion for use by its own military, and U.S. officials say that deal will be blocked because of the S-400 purchase.

U.S. President Donald Trump on July 16 backed off from criticizing Turkey for purchasing the Russian system, saying that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was prevented from buying the U.S.-made Patriot system by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump lamented the loss of the sale of jets to Turkey, saying manufacturer Lockheed Martin would suffer.

"Because they have a system of missiles that's made in Russia, they're now prohibited from buying over 100 planes. I would say that Lockheed isn't exactly happy. That's a lot of jobs," Trump said.

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