WASHINGTON — The two F-35 aircraft already purchased by Turkey to be used to train Turkish pilots will likely be sent to Ankara even if it obtains and installs a Russian-made anti-missile system, the Pentagon said Thursday.
Asked by Pentagon reporters if the U.S. plans to “take back” the two F-35s already purchased by Turkey, Acting Pentagon spokesperson Charles Summers said, “we have no plans to do that.”
The two F-35s are at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
However, Summers repeatedly reinforced the Pentagon’s position that should Turkey acquire and install the Russian S-400 anti-missile system, no further F-35 jets, parts or support would flow to Ankara.
“Should they get the S-400, they will not get the F-35,” Summers said.
Turkey has said it plans to buy 100 F-35 fighter jets.
Defense officials from the U.S. and other NATO nations, meeting in Washington to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance, have voiced concerns that using the Russian anti-missile system would expose NATO technology and secrets to Moscow.
In particular, there are concerns that the high-powered radar that comes with the S-400 system could pierce and discern the stealth attributes of the F-35.
Pentagon officials testifying on Capitol Hill on Thursday said shunting Turkey out of the F-35 program would like impact production of about 75 of the fighters.
Turkey produces about 7 percent of the parts for the F-35, including the fuselage, landing gear, and cockpit displays, Pentagon officials said Thursday. The F-35 production lines are in Texas, Italy, and Japan.
Summers said he did not “have a timeline” on when parts manufacturing could start at a new location and “cannot say where the parts would come from” to replace those made in Turkey.
On Wednesday, Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara has proposed a “technical working group” with the United States to work out the situation.
Summers said Thursday that Turkey “is an important ally and we are committed to working with them in the Syrian border.”