The U.S. has eliminated Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter program, and Turkey will lose its manufacturing work on the jet by March 2020, following its acceptance of the S-400 Russian-made air defense system last week.
Nevertheless, a prime Pentagon official wouldn’t shut the door on Turkey rejoining the plan in some form, ought to it reverse the decision to purchase the S-400.
The White House released an assertion Wednesday confirming the measure, which Washington had warned for months.
“Turkey’s determination to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems contributes its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible,” the White House assertion read. “The F-35 can’t coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that shall be used to study its superior capabilities.”
Shortly after the statement was issued, the Pentagon held an unusual on-camera press conference to clarify the process going ahead, with Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Ellen Lord and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy David Trachtenberg.
Turkey, a companion in the F-35 program that supported the development of the jet, planned to purchase 100 F-35As. Its first jet was launched in June 2018 in a festive “delivery ceremony.” Although Turkey officially owns its aircraft, the U.S. has stated it has the ability to keep the planes from shifting to Turkish soil and aims to keep all four current Turkish jets from leaving the U.S.
Lord avoided saying that the door was closed on Turkey returning to the plan ought to the S-400 be eliminated from its soil and repeatedly used the term “suspension” to identify Turkey’s standing in the F-35 program. When asked twice if Turkey could be allowed back if the scenario changes, Lord didn’t give a direct answer somehow.