U.S. Begins Process of 'Unwinding' Turkey From F-35 Program, DOD Officials Say
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued July 17, 2019)
A spokesman introduces Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg at a July 17 briefing on unwinding Turkey from the F-35 program. (DoD photo)
The United States is "unwinding" Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program as a result of the country buying the Russian S-400 air defense missile system, Pentagon officials said.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg told reporters in the Pentagon that Turkey has taken delivery of the Russian-built system. Turkey cannot have both the Russian system and the fifth-generation fighter.
Trachtenberg called the development unfortunate and said the U.S. government has worked tirelessly to avoid the necessity. "But let me be clear, the United States greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey — that remains unchanged," he said. "As long-standing NATO allies, our relationship is multilayered and extends well beyond the F-35 partnership. We will continue our extensive cooperation with Turkey across the entire spectrum of our relationship."
The U.S. government has been clear over the course of this procurement that Turkey can acquire the S-400 or the F-35, but not both, he said. "Our response today is a specific response to a specific event," he said. "It is separate and distinct from the broader range of security interests where the United States and Turkey work together against common threats. Our military-to-military relationship remains strong, and we will continue to participate with Turkey in multilateral exercises to improve readiness and interoperability."
Trachtenberg's remarks mirrored those of President Donald J. Trump, who said the United States values its strategic partnership with Turkey. DOD and the U.S. government worked hard to chart an alternative path that would enable Turkey to acquire air defense systems within the NATO alliance standards for interoperability and still allow Turkey to remain within the F-35 partnership, Lord said.
Turkey did not listen and bought the Russian air defense system instead of the American Patriot missile system. "The United States and other F-35 partners are aligned in the decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate to process to formally remove Turkey from the program," Lord said.
The United States offered Turkey the Patriot as a missile defense system that would satisfy the country's legitimate air defense needs. Since early 2017, when Turkey began publicly discussing its interest in the Russian-made S-400 system, all levels of the U.S. government consistently communicated to all levels of the Turkish government that the F-35 and S-400 are incompatible, Lord said.
"Turkey cannot field a Russian intelligence collection platform in proximity to where the F-35 program makes repairs and houses F-35s," she said. "Much of the F-35 strengths lie in its stealth capabilities. So the ability to detect those capabilities would jeopardize the long-term security of the F-35 program. We seek to protect the security of the F-35."
Turkey's purchase of the S-400 affects the country's interoperability with its NATO allies, she said.
Last month, then-Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan told Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that if his country went ahead with S-400 procurement, the country would be removed from the F-35 program. Lord said the process will be orderly and done in a respectful and deliberate manner. Turkish personnel will be reassigned away from the program by July 31. Lord said she anticipates the process of unwinding Turkey from the program will be complete by the end of March.
Turkey was going to buy 100 of the fifth-generation fighter jets and was a major player in building the system.
Lord said the F-35 international partnership is strong and resilient. "Our partnership regrets we have arrived at this moment, but I and the F-35 Joint Program Office will continue to engage fully with our F-35 partners as we continue to work to expeditiously complete the unwinding of Turkey's participation in the partnership," Lord said.
This will include changes to the supply base and supply chain for the aircraft system, but because of advanced planning, she anticipates minimal impact on the larger F-35 partnership. "Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision," she said. "It will no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected workshare related to the F-35 over the life of the program," she said.
Turkey made more than 900 parts for the F-35, and that will be picked up by American suppliers to start, but will open to other nations in the months ahead.
Statement by the Press Secretary
(Source: The White House; issued July 17, 2019)
Unfortunately, Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible. The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.
The United States has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defense solutions to meet its legitimate air defense needs, and this Administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the U.S. Patriot air defense system.
Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and NATO Ally for over 65 years, but accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO Allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems.
This will have detrimental impacts on Turkish interoperability with the Alliance. 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.
Our military-to-military relationship is strong, and we will continue to cooperate with Turkey extensively, mindful of constraints due to the presence of the S-400 system in Turkey.
US Cuts Turkey Out of F-35 Fighter Jet Program
(Source: Voice of America News; posted July 17, 2019)
PENTAGON --- The United States is officially removing Turkey from its F-35 stealth fighter jet program after Ankara accepted the Russian delivery of its S-400 missile defense system.
"Unfortunately, Turkey's decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible," the White House said in a statement Wednesday. "The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities."
U.S. officials believe NATO ally Turkey's decision to use Russian advanced radar technology could compromise the alliance's military systems in the country. The S-400 could potentially be used to target NATO jets in Turkey, including the U.S.-made F-35, which is NATO's newest stealth fighter jet.
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday the U.S. and its other F-35 partners "were aligned" in the decision to suspend and begin formally removing Turkey from the program.
“Much of the F-35's strength lies in its stealth capabilities, so the ability (of the S-400) to detect those capabilities would jeopardize the long-term security of the F-35 program," she said.
Turkish companies had made more than 900 parts for the F-35 and is set to lose more than $9 billion in projected work over the life of the program, including $1 billion in current commitments, Lord said. She added the U.S. was spending between $500 and $600 million to shift the supply chain out of Turkey.
All Turkish pilots and aircraft maintainers training with the F-35 program have plans to leave the United States by July 31, according to the Pentagon. Turkey's involvement in the program will be officially "wind down" by the end of March 2020, Lord said.
Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy David Trachtenberg said the U.S. would continue to participate with Turkey in international exercises in Georgia, Germany and Ukraine, but it remains unclear how or whether Turkey would be allowed to participate in any NATO or U.S. exercise involving air defense.
“The United States greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey. That remains unchanged," Trachtenberg said.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump's nominee to be the next secretary of defense slammed Turkey's acceptance of the S-400, parts of which were delivered last week, as "wrong" and "disappointing."
Mark Esper told lawmakers he emphasized in a phone call to Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that "you can either have the S-400 or the F-35. You can't have both."
A Russian transport jet delivered the first parts of the $2.2 billion missile system last Friday to a Turkish military air base outside Ankara.
Turkey's Ministry of National Defense has said its purchase of the S-400 defense systems was "not an option but rather a necessity."
The ministry said last week that Turkey was still assessing the bid to acquire U.S. Patriot air defense systems.
But the White House countered Turkey's assertion on Wednesday.
"The United States has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defense solutions to meet its legitimate air defense needs, and this administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the U.S. PATRIOT air defense system," the White House said.
The White House added that Turkey has been a "longstanding and trusted partner and NATO Ally for over 65 years," but that "accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO Allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems."
Potentially more damaging for Turkey are U.S. sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which could hit Turkey's already weakened economy.
The top Republican and Democratic senators of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Inhofe, Jack Reed, Jim Risch and Bob Menendez, issued a joint statement Friday condemning the delivery and urging President Trump to fully implement the sanctions.
"By accepting delivery of the S-400 from Russia, President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has chosen a perilous partnership with Putin at the expense of Turkey's security, economic prosperity and the integrity of the NATO alliance," the senators said.
"It did not have to come to this," they added, stating that Turkey had "rejected multiple attempts" by the United States to preserve the relationship while protecting Turkish airspace with F-35 fighter jets and the U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air defense system.
Turkish officials argue Turkey is in a complicated geopolitical region, as it borders Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Three years ago, the Turkish presidential palace was bombed by rogue elements of its military in an attempted coup, and some analysts suggest the missiles could be used to protect Turkish President Erdogan.
While the S-400 is widely recognized as one of the most advanced missile systems in the world, its practical use is in question, given its incompatibility with the rest of Turkey's NATO military systems.
From a military perspective there is no logic," said retired General Haldun Solmazturk, who now heads the Ankara-based 21st Century Institute research institution. "This is not only a problem between Turkey and the United States, but it is a problem between Turkey and the rest of the 28 NATO members, so it's a serious problem."