U.S. Expresses Willingness to Reincorporate Turkey into F-35 Program Pending S-400 Resolution

Deputy Secretary of State Nuland emphasizes the need to resolve S-400 dispute for Turkey's return to F-35 program
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • 10:09 AM, February 1, 2024
  • 744
U.S. Expresses Willingness to Reincorporate Turkey into F-35 Program Pending S-400 Resolution
F-35A Lightning II @F-35 JPO

The United States has communicated its readiness to welcome Turkey back into the F-35 fighter jet program, provided the longstanding disagreement over the S-400 air defense system is successfully addressed.

Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland conveyed this message during her visit to Turkey on Tuesday.

"If we could get through this S-400 issue, which we would like to do, the U.S. would be delighted to welcome Turkey back into the F-35 family," stated Deputy Secretary of State Nuland in an interview with private broadcaster CNN Türk.

She stressed the importance of resolving the S-400 matter while ensuring that Turkey maintains a robust air defense.

Turkey's desire to purchase Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets was met with sanctions, specifically under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), leading to its exclusion from the F-35 program in 2019 following the acquisition of S-400s from Russia. The U.S. contended that the air missile defense systems posed a threat to the advanced fighter jet, while Turkey maintained they would not be integrated into NATO systems.

The exclusion was a setback for Turkey, which had placed orders for approximately 100 F-35s, with its companies actively involved in producing around 900 parts for the fighter jet.

"If we can get through this issue, then the CAATSA issue will go away, and we can get back into an F-35 conversation," Nuland affirmed.

In the midst of these negotiations, Turkey has sought reimbursement for payments made for the F-35s and has expressed interest in acquiring F-16 warplanes and modernization kits to update its existing fleet. Last Friday, the Biden administration approved a $23 billion sale of 40 new F-16s and nearly 80 kits, marking a significant step forward in the diplomatic process.

The approval came after a prolonged and at times frustrating process, with the Biden administration consistently supporting the sale. The sale was contingent on Turkey's formal ratification of Sweden's NATO membership, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan eventually approved, leading to the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership last week.

Nuland, during her visit, emphasized the importance of Turkey's acquisition of F-16s as a priority for U.S. national security. She highlighted ongoing efforts to persuade American lawmakers of the significance of enhancing Turkey's F-16 fleet, indicating a concerted effort to revitalize relations between the two countries.

The U.S. Congress now has a 15-day window to object to the sale, after which it will be considered final.

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