A US decision to cut Turkey out of the F-35 jet fighter programme in reponse to its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system may have only a minimal impact on the industrial base formed for the development and making of the stealth plane, a senior US Air Force official said on December 4, according to DefenseNews.
President Donald Trump has yet to determine what steps the US Defense Department may introduce if Nato member Turkey moves ahead with the acquisition of the S-400. However, Heidi Grant, the US Air Force’s deputy undersecretary for international affairs, reportedly said Pentagon analysis had shown that there won’t be a catastrophe if Turkey is forced out of the F-35 programme.
“While it will have some impact on the F-35 programme, I don’t think it’s going to be any type of devastating impact if … there’s a policy decision that they are no longer a partner,” Grant was cited as telling reporters in a roundtable interview.
As part of the F-35 project, Turkey is to run a maintenance depot that would attend to F-35s from the British and other European air forces.
On January 7, Grant is to take over as head of the Defense Technology Security Administration. The US Defense Department agency is responsible for ensuring that sales of weapon systems to foreign nations do not endanger US technological advantages.
Some lawmakers are concerned that should Ankara move forward with its purchase of the S-400—which it has repeatedly insisted is a deal at an advanced stage that it cannot scrap—Russia could build back doors into the anti-aircraft system that would allow it to glean classified information such as performance data about Nato capabilities like the F-35.
The US Congress has prohibited Turkey from obtaining any ordered F-35s prior to full consideration of Pentagon analyses on risks posed by Turkey acquiring the S-400.
Turkish pilots have journeyed to the US to learn how to fly the first handful of F-35s that are supposed to be bound for Turkey.
Turkey has the second-largest armed forces among the Nato member countries.
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