As Turkey opts for Russia’s S-400, US formally expels it from F-35 agreement

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The US Department of Defense updated its F-35 agreement, and formally expelled Turkey from the programme. Ankara became part of one of the US most sought-after defence programme in 2007.

The move did not come as surprise as it was awaited since Turkey went ahead with the acquisition of the rival Russian S-400 anti-aircraft weapons system. Pentagon took the move to prevent Moscow from gaining more information about its advanced defence programme from the NATO ally.

The moved implied that Turkish companies who were manufacturing different parts of the F-35 would continue to do so but only until next year, clarifying that the country would not obtain the aircraft. Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and chairman of the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy (EDAM), told Arab News: “Exclusion from the F-35 program has two important consequences. One is obviously about the companies that have until now participated in the manufacturing process of the F-35s. There is no going back because the manufacturing process shifted away from Turkey to other countries.”

Expressing his concerns, Ulgen added, “There is no real, tangible way to replace the F-35s with another such platform. The only commercially available fifth-generation platforms that could potentially replace them is the Russian Su-57, and the Chinese (Chengdu J-20) but both of them will create more complications given that they are not NATO-interoperable, and it would be considered a signal that Turkey is distancing itself further away from the West.”

The Biden administration officially dropped Turkey from the programme and moved ahead with granting green signal to $23 billion sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates. Though the state department said that the US-UAE defense deal was under review and deliveries would not be made anytime soon.

With regard to the UAE arms deal, a State Department spokesperson said, “We can confirm that the administration intends to move forward with these proposed defense sales to the UAE, even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials to ensure we have developed mutual understandings with respect to Emirati obligations before, during and after delivery. Projected delivery dates on these sales, if eventually implemented, will be several years in the future.”

The move left Turkey in a difficult spot especially with Ankara’s open support for Ukraine, amidst rising tensions between Kiev and Moscow. Ankara could face difficulty in procuring S-400 defence system from a Moscow amidst its ongoing standoff with Kremlin over separatist movement in Ukraine. To confirm the coldness of ties between the two, on Wednesday Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said the Kremlin would scrutinize the prospect of its defence deal with Turkey, if latter provided drones to Ukraine.

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