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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Redline: Turkey Booted from F-35 Partnership after Russian S-400 Missile Purchase

It was predictable as Turkish agents brawling outside their embassy in Washington D.C.  Tensions between U.S. and its NATO ally Turkey had existed since the Obama administration. Turkish pilots were already in the U.S. training to fly the F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. Those pilots were kicked off bases in June this year. Six days ago, Turkey defied NATO and the U.S. with its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense missile system.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement Wednesday:
"Unfortunately, Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible. The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.
The United States has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defense solutions to meet its legitimate air defense needs, and this Administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the U.S. PATRIOT air defense system.

Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and NATO Ally for over 65 years, but accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO Allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems. This will have detrimental impacts on Turkish interoperability with the Alliance. The United States still greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey.
As NATO Allies, our relationship is multi-layered, and not solely focused on the F-35. Our military-to-military relationship is strong, and we will continue to cooperate with Turkey extensively, mindful of constraints due to the presence of the S-400 system in Turkey."
To make matters more awkward, Turkish aviation companies manufacture some of the F-35 jet's components. Allen Cone at UPI reported back in May,
"Eight Turkish companies make parts for the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays of the aircraft, according to Lockheed Martin. Some of them have been producing F-35 parts since 2004. For example, Fokker Elmo manufactures 40 percent of the F-35's electrical wiring and interconnection system.

These companies are set to do $12 billion in work on the F-35 program over the life of the jet, according to USNI News.

"The Pentagon has been prepared to find other vendors to supply parts because of the situation with Turkey," said (Undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, Ellen M.) Lord."

"We have for some time now been working to look at alternate sources of supply for the F-35 supply chain that is inside Turkey right now," she said. "That being said, we continue to work with Turkey and hope that they will use a NATO-compliant system for their air defense system."
With Wednesday's White House statement, it's obvious that didn't pan out. The reasons are complicated, and have been stewing for some time. Sean Gallagher at Ars Technica fills in some details:
"US and NATO partners are concerned that the S-400 systems, supported by Russian technicians, will essentially amount to an intelligence collection system for Russia on NATO aircraft and military operations. But Erdoğan has been steadily marching away from NATO since the July 2016 coup attempt against his government. That coup led to the arrest of many military officers who were the backbone of the Turkish military and had long relationships with NATO partners. Former head of the Turkish air force Akin Ozturk was one of over 2,000 former members of the military given life sentences.

In a speech on July 15 (the third anniversary of the coup attempt), Erdoğan welcomed the first components of S-400 systems to Turkey, saying that "the S-400s are the strongest defense system against those who want to attack our country... God willing, we are doing this as a joint investment with Russia and will continue to do so.” He added that "with God’s permission," the missile systems would be fully deployed by April 2020."
As for why Turkey says it decided to buy Russia's missiles, Ibrahim Kalin, a senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told NPR in April:
"The only Patriot missile batteries we have right now are the ones owned and lent to us by Spain and Italy. So that all has created a sense of consternation in Ankara as to why our allies are withdrawing their Patriot missile systems when we need them the most. And that all has led to Turkey looking for alternatives."

The U.S. deployed Patriot missiles in southeastern Turkey in 2013, after Turkey's leaders asked NATO to help prevent a potential missile attack from neighboring Syria during that country's civil war. The U.S. and other allies began withdrawing those systems in the fall of 2015, saying the missile threat had diminished."

T/y WhatFingerNews for the shout-out.