UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The US administration may consider returning Turkey to the F-35 fifth-generation fighter-bombers program only if it gets rid of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) acquired from Russia. This was announced on Wednesday at a briefing for journalists in the Pentagon by US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
He was asked whether the United States would be ready to return Turkey to the F-35 aircraft production project if it refuses to operate the S-400 air defense system. “No. Not according to my ideas,” Esper answered.
“I spoke about this very clearly both publicly and privately in contacts with my Turkish colleagues: it’s either the F-35 or the S-400. Not both [these weapons systems]. You can’t put one in the garage, and roll out another one [for the purpose of application]. Either one or the other, “the head of the US military department explained.
At the same time, he admitted that with Ankara’s complete rejection of the S-400 air defense system, Washington could study the issue of Turkey’s return to the F-35 production program. “I repeat: they [the Turkish authorities] will have to get rid of the S-400 program <…>, and then we [American officials] can consider this,” said Esper.
According to him, the situation around the F-35 and S-400 in US-Turkish relations has not changed. “We are where we are. It is regrettable. As I said, Turkey is a long-standing partner and ally, and I would hope that it would again move in our direction and fulfill what NATO agreed upon many years ago: stop investing funds in Russian technology, Soviet-era technology. And they [Turks] seem to be moving in a different direction,” the Pentagon chief added.
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