Turkey removed from F-35 programme

The United States has announced that it is removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme, a move long threatened and expected after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile air defence system last week, Reuters has reported. 

The first parts of the S-400 air defence system were flown to the Murted military air base northwest of Ankara on Friday (pictured below right), sealing NATO member Turkey’s deal with Russia, which Washington had struggled for months to prevent. 

S 400 Turkey

“The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the programme and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the programme,” Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment, told a briefing.  

Lord said moving the supply chain for the advanced fighter jet would cost the United States between $500 million (£402 million) and $600 million (£482.51 million) in non-recurring engineering costs. 

Turkey makes more than 900 parts of the F-35, she said, adding the supply chain would transition from Turkish to mainly U.S. factories as Turkish suppliers are removed. 

“Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision,” Lord said. “It will no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected work share related to the F-35 over the life of the programme.” 

The F-35 stealth fighter jet, the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, is used by NATO and other U.S. allies, including the UK, Italy, and Japan. 

Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information about the aircraft’s stealth system. 

“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 earlier on Wednesday. 

After the Pentagon announcement, Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “We invite the United States to return from this mistake which would open irreparable wounds in strategic relations.” 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at the Aspen Institute’s annual security forum in Aspen, Colorado, said he was concerned at Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 programme. 

Commentary:

Deployment of Russia's S-400 into NATO territory could be considered a 'Trojan horse' style operation. 

It is not uncommon for exported military equipment to contain software that could allow the 'parent' nation to take control of said equipment remotely during time of conflict - the U.S. and China have been actively doing this for years. Placing S-400s deep into NATO territory would allow Russia to considerably extend the range of its anti-aircraft systems.

NATO Sec Gen Stoltenberg is right to express his "concern": fracturing the alliance is a major priority for Vladimir Putin, and he will see this spat as a major success, and we can expect to see Turkey being offered Russian stealth fighters in the near future. 

It is also the case that Russia, like China, is desperate to get its hands on certain technologies that are unique to the F-35. Could the U.S. and her allies trust Turkey not to hand over an F-35 to Russian engineers? The answer to that question is blindingly obvious.

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