The Trump administration stepped up a dispute with Turkey, saying the Pentagon would end cooperation over its new fighter jet program because Turkey is refusing to back down on buying Russia’s most sophisticated antiaircraft system.
In carefully choreographed steps, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan released a letter he sent to the Turkish minister of defense, Hulusi Akar, outlining the path the Pentagon is taking to stop Turkey from participating in the F-35 fighter program.
The steps include halting the training of Turkish pilots on the advanced fighter jets starting July 31. The United States has already stopped delivery of F-35 parts to Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member that has built increasingly close ties in recent years to Moscow.
Turkey has bought four F-35s, but the jets remain in the United States. Separately, officials told reporters at the Pentagon that Turkey would not be allowed to take part in previously scheduled meetings on the weapons system.
Both Mr. Shanahan and Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top acquisitions official, said that if Turkey dropped plans to buy Russia’s S-400 antiaircraft system, the United States would welcome it back into the F-35 program. The Russian system is an advanced surface-to-air missile system that can shoot down planes like the F-35. The United States wants Ankara to buy the
American-made Patriot radar system, manufactured by Raytheon. It has been difficult
to determine if the United States and Turkey are serious about removing Ankara from the F-35 weapons program, or if each side is haggling for the best deal it can get on the Patriot. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has so far been insistent that his country is going ahead with its planned purchase of the Russian system.
He said that the United States had not given Turkey “an offer as good as the S-400s.” The United States insists that the Russian system is incompatible with the F-35. American officials say that proximity between the S-400 and the F-35 could compromise the American program’s security