General Tapped to Head NATO: Cancel F-35 Sales to Turkey

F-35 Lightning aircraft from Eglin Air Force Base Fla. prepare for takeoff at Barksdale Air Force Base La. Oct. 12 2018. The aircraft evacuated to Barksdale to avoid possible damage from Hurricane Michael

In a letter to leading appropriators, House members called for fresh language last week restricting United States funding to support the jets if Turkey buys the S-400.

The standoff escalated on Monday as the Pentagon announced it suspended delivery of equipment related to the F-35 "pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400".

The Pentagon also said today that it was looking for secondary sources for Turkish-produced parts for the F-35.

Roger Wicker shares Shanahan's optimism, telling Wolters that the Turkish insistence on buying the S-400 - which would put North Atlantic Treaty Organisation aircraft operating in Turkey at risk - "is not what one would expect from an ally and it calls into question a lot of things that we've assumed from our long-term ally".

Shanahan stuck an optimistic note when he told reporters at the Pentagon: "I expect them to be delivered".

"It is simply unacceptable for Europe's largest economy to continue to ignore the threat of Russian aggression and neglect its own self-defense and our common defense", Pence said.

(South Korea Defense Acquisition Program Administration via Getty Images) A U.S. F-35A fighter jet lands at Chungju Air Base, March 29, 2019, in Chungju, South Korea.

US Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday strongly criticized Germany at NATO's 70th anniversary gathering, saying the ally's level of defense spending and work with Russian Federation on a gas pipeline were "simply unacceptable".

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has refused to back down from Ankara's planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defence system that the United States has said would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.

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At his Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing to lead U.S. European Command, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters called the co-location of the F-35 and the S-400 "absolutely unsustainable".

Turkey has insisted on purchasing the Russian weapons system, despite repeated warnings from the US.

Congress officially ordered a delay in F-35-linked deliveries to Turkey past year.

Shanahan added that he expected the United States to ultimately deliver F-35s now at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona to Turkey, after resolving the dispute.

According to Scaparrotti, the presence of the S-400 in such close proximity to the F-35 provides a greater opportunity to analyze the aircraft and its capabilities.

"March was not a hard and fast deadline", a Defense Department spokesman told Al-Monitor.

"I am very confident in the Patriot proposal that we've delivered to Turkey: its availability, its pricing, and, very importantly, the industrial participation that comes along with the Patriot system", Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon. Shanahan added that Washington is trying to convince Ankara to buy US Patriot systems instead of the Russian-made ones.

Losing the jets could come at an economic cost to Turkey. The aircraft is made by Lockheed Martin Corp. The Turkish lira fell by 2% amid news of the U.S. move to halt equipment deliveries and the ruling party's setbacks in local elections.

"Although they've said, even [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has said, that the S-400 is a done deal, I don't personally think it's a done deal yet", he was quoted as saying. "Basically 99.9% of the meetings the USA takes with the Turks on this issue don't fundamentally matter because those people aren't empowered to negotiate".

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