WASHINGTON — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he expects Turkey and the U.S. to resolve differences over Ankara’s planned acquisition of a Russian defense system so the sale of F-35 fighters can go forward.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with (Turkish) Defense Minister (Hulusi) Akar and I really think we’ll resolve this situation with our strategic partners,” Shanahan told Pentagon reporters Tuesday morning.
He also said the F-35 fighters planned for purchase by Turkey, now at Luke Air Force Base, will likely be sent to the NATO ally.
“I expect them to be delivered,” Shanahan said.
Shanahan’s remarks come less than a day after the Pentagon released a terse statement saying the U.S. will cease the sale and transfer of F-35 jet fighters, parts and support to Turkey until Ankara stops with the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-missile system.
In the Monday afternoon statement, Pentagon officials said Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 “is unacceptable” and that the Defense Department “has initiated steps necessary to ensure prudent program planning and resiliency of the F-35 supply chain.”
NATO defense ministers, including Akar, are in Washington today and this week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO.
“Until they forgo delivery of the S-400, the United States has suspended deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability,” the Pentagon Monday statement said. “Should Turkey procure the S-400, their continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk.”
On Tuesday, Shanahan said he is “very confident in the Patriot proposal that we’ve delivered to Turkey, its availability, it’s pricing, and very importantly, the industrial participation that comes along with the Patriot system.”
While he did not predict that Turkey would buy the Patriot system instead of the S-400, Shanahan said, “I expect we’ll solve the problem so that they have the right defense equipment in terms of Patriots and F-35s.”