General Calls for U.S. to Block F-35 Sales to Turkey

Turkey’s weapons acquisition creates tension in international agreements. (Wright-Patterson AFB)

Turkey’s weapons acquisition creates tension in international agreements. (Wright-Patterson AFB)

Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, called on the U.S. to block the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey on March 8, reports CNN. The request follows a bill signed by President Trump in February that would halt the transfer of the fifth-generation fighter jet to Turkey if it proceeded to buy a Russian missile defense system.

General Scaparrotti said his “best military advice” to the U.S. is to prevent Turkey from acquiring F-35 fighters, according to Defense News. He fears that Ankara’s deal with Russia to purchase the S400 missile defense system would be inoperable with NATO systems. In an interview with Defense News, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, Heidi Grant, said that “our policies do not allow us to be interoperable with that [the S400] system.”

However, Turkey has pushed back on Washington’s block on the F-35. Turkey’s national defense minister, Hulusi Akar, expressed his concern that the U.S. would be acting illicitly if it refused to transfer F-35s to the Turkish Air Force. There is a growing concern within the NATO defense community regarding how the U.S. would block F-35s sales to Turkey due to their role in manufacturing the aircraft’s center fuselage.

Nonetheless, it is unlikely the U.S. will abandon their demands. Not only is Turkey’s acquisition of the F-35 compromised, but its plan to buy the Russian S400 missile defense system may also cost them a $3.5 billion Raytheon Patriot missile deal with the U.S., according to Reuters. As of the date of publication, CNN reports that Turkish Air Force pilots remain training with F-35s at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona alongside U.S. military personnel.