US President Donald Trump has signed a bill blocking the sale of F-35 jets to Turkey due to its persistence in purchasing the Russian S-400 missile defence system.
The transfer of the fighter jets was originally planned for March, but will not go ahead until US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Patrick M. Shanahan deliver an update to US Congress regarding Turkey’s S-400 purchase.
Turkey originally aimed to gain 100 F-35 jets within the coming years, and was delivered two in June last year with two more due this year. The transfer, however, will now be blocked until November.
Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile defence system – Russia’s most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system – has unsettled the US, which claimed that the system and the jets are not compatible. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, however, asserted in January that “the S-400 agreement is already a finished deal…We can deal with the United States for the Patriot, but if it’s about the S-400, no.”
The US had set a deadline of 15 February for Turkey to cancel the purchase of the S-400 system, or the sale of the US Patriot missile system would be halted. Turkey refused to make the deadline, however, and last week, US Vice President Mike Pence spoke out against Turkey’s purchase of the system, stating that “we will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries…We cannot ensure the defence of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.”
Turkey was a prominent contributor to the production of the F-35 fighter jet, as its defence industry took an active role in making parts for the jets through companies such as Alp Aviation, AYESAS, Kale Aviation, Kale Pratt & Whitney and Turkish Aerospace Industries. The country has not yet been provided with its desired number of jets, despite being part of the F-35 program since 1999.