US will keep buying F-35 parts from Turkey, despite Congress pressure

US will keep buying F-35 parts from Turkey, despite Congress pressure
US will keep buying F-35 parts from Turkey, despite Congress pressure

Thank you for your reading and interest in the news US will keep buying F-35 parts from Turkey, despite Congress pressure and now with details

Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The US Defence Department has no plans to expedite Turkey’s exit from the F-35 fighter jets supply chain and will continue to acquire delivery parts until 2022, even as Congress ups the pressure to abandon those contracts with Ankara.

A letter signed by US senators on Monday urged US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper to stop sourcing parts from Turkey, citing concerns that Ankara is “not behaving like a responsible actor or working collaboratively with the West.”

A US Defence official told The National on condition of anonymity on Wednesday that honouring existing contracts with Turkey will continue until 2022, to avoid further disruptions for the F-35 jets’ supply chain

The date is two years beyond the timeframe the Pentagon initially envisioned.

Turkey was removed from the F-35 consortium in 2019 following its acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defence system. The US also ended its F-35 training program for Ankara and blocked the transfer of those aircrafts to the Nato member.

But the Pentagon will continue to allow giant defence contractor Lockheed Martin to receive F-35 components from Turkey until 2022, the US defence official explained, citing existing contracts between the two and the need to avoid disruptions.

The National Defence Authorisation Act signed by US President Donald last December prohibits these transfers. But the Pentagon is looking away for now, despite pressure from Congress this week stressing the urgency of terminating the delivery of all F-35 components from Turkey.

A group of bipartisan Senators penned a letter to US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper this week urging them “to remove Turkey from the supply chain of the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter.”

The letter, signed by Republican Senators James Lankford and Thom Tillis, and Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Chris Van Hollen, said: “From human rights violations in Syria to arbitrary arrests of Americans in Ankara to defence cooperation with Russia, Turkey is not behaving like a responsible actor or working collaboratively with the West at the level we expect from a Nato ally.”

Turkey had been a member of the F-35 consortium since 2002, alongside the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and Denmark.

The Senators warned that continuing the contracts hurts US geopolitical efforts. "By keeping Turkish manufacturers in the supply chain two years after the initial statute took effect [2020] and well beyond the Pentagon’s self-imposed deadline, the Department is impeding our nation’s diplomatic and geopolitical efforts to pressure Turkey to reverse course.”

Aaron Stein, research director at The Foreign Policy Research Institute, saw the Pentagon’s decision to continue importing components as a matter of technical necessity rather than policy. “Turkey makes single-sourced parts and replacing them, which includes certifying new suppliers, takes time,” Mr Stein told The National.

“The F-35 program will last for decades, and a two-year unwind of Turkish suppliers won’t matter in the long run,” he said, citing Covid-19 disruptions as an added complication to defence contractors.

Ankara could also face more sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which passed overwhelmingly in 2017 to sanction any significant transactions with Russia.

Turkey has been defiant in its acquisition of S-400 anti-aircraft weaponry and tested the Russian system against US F-16 fighter jets last November.

But when it comes to Turkey, the US President, who has fostered a close relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is negotiating a major trade deal with Ankara, opted to delay the imposition of these sanctions.

Updated: July 8, 2020 09:09 PM

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