Home News Analysis US VS RUSSIA: Turkey to be scrapped off the F-35 program

US VS RUSSIA: Turkey to be scrapped off the F-35 program

United States fears that Turkish’s procurement of Russian defense systems is going to give Russia a chance to spot any vulnerability to breach the stealth feature of the F-35 jet, hence, it is not ready to take any chance.

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United States of America has declared that no more Turkish pilots will be trained in the country after both sides failed to reach middle ground regarding the procurement of the S-400 Anti-ballistic Missile Defense Systems. US Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, wrote to his Turkish counterpart, informing him about the policy decision.

“This training will not occur because we are suspending Turkey from the F-35 program; there are no longer requirements to gain proficiencies on the systems,” according to an attachment to the letter that is titled, “Unwinding Turkey’s Participation in the F-35 Program.” On the other hand, Turkey has categorically nulled any chances of walking away from the S-400 purchase citing that Turkish military personnel is already in Russia to get the training on the operation of the ABM system.

The United States is no longer willing to entertain the next batch of Turkish pilots unless the country clearly states its withdrawal from the S-400 purchase.

Both the United States and Turkey have had a strained relationship over the last few years due to diverging policies over Iran and Syria but the S-400 fiasco has by far been the biggest hurdle between two NATO allies. The United States even offered Turkey its own PATRIOT-PAC 3 defense system at discounted prices provided that Turkey does not pursue the Russian hardware, but Ankara refused the offer. While Turkey has always hoped that the issue will eventually be resolved via diplomacy, Washington has apparently decided to utilize an iron-hand to force Turkey into walking away.

A Partner in the F-35 Program

Turkey is not simply a buyer of the advanced 5th generation Lockheed Martin fighter jet but has been the part of Research and Development for the past 2 decades. It also produces some crucial parts for F-35 jets which include landing gear and central fuselage. Hence Lockheed Martin is already looking for alternate manufacturers of these parts so that the consequences of the standoff, in future, are not shared by rest of the partners of the F-35 program. Due to extensive and convoluted process, it might take some time before Turkey is shown completely.

Read more: US suspends F-35 program deliveries to Turkey over Russian arms

Turkey has placed an order of the 100 F-35 jets which come at a price of $9 billion and Turkish pilots, in batches, pursue their training in Nevada for flying the sophisticated, advanced electronic machine. But the United States is no longer willing to entertain the next batch of Turkish pilots unless the country clearly states its withdrawal from the S-400 purchase. However, it is not essentially as much of an issue as illustrated in Pakistan’s example. A small batch of Pakistani pilots was sent to the United States to undergo training for F-16s back in the late 1990s. The rest of the Pakistani pilots were then trained by that batch and it has continued till date.

The U.S Concern Over S-400

Conundrum dates to the cold war days when both Russia and the United States were trying to supersede each other in mil-tech and eventually state of the art pieces of warfare were developed. U.S made advanced F-35 stealth jet is designed to bypass defense systems like the S-400, therefore, it fears that integration of both in Turkey can give the chance to the Russians to look for ways to detect F-35 overcoming the edge it has over other fighter jets. The concerns are actually genuine as years of R&D and billions of dollars have been spent on the 5th generation fighter jet program by the United States and its allies to make it stand out.

Read more: S-400 system or F-35 jets: Turkey to decide between Russia and…

From the day it was signed, neither Turkey nor the United States is ready to back out, and both sides have their valid reasons. Eventually, the row might cause further souring of relations between both NATO allies if no common ground is agreed upon in the coming days.