Locked in a dispute with Turkey, which wants to buy US-made F-35’s as well as a Russian missile defense system, the United States is reportedly mulling letting Greece as well as Romania and Poland – buy the fighter jets, a move that could escalate tension with Moscow.
The US wants to let five countries who are European allies get the jets, a Pentagon official told Congress. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned NATO and the US and its allies from getting too bold near his country’s border.
Greece was anxious that Turkey would have a far superior airplane in the F-35 compared to the aging F-16s that Greek pilots use, that Greece wants to upgrade as there are frequent violations of Greek airspace that see pilots between the countries engage in mock dogfights.
In written testimony submitted to the US House of Representatives seen by Reuters, Vice Admiral Mathias Winter – the head of the Pentagon’s F-35 office – said that “future potential Foreign Military Sales customers also include Singapore and Spain.
Foreign military sales like those of the F-35 are considered government-to-government deals where the Pentagon acts as an intermediary between the defense contractor and a foreign government. Finland, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates want the jets too.
Winter’s full written testimony, which could be made public as soon as April 5, as soon as the US would respond to all official requests for information about the jet.
Last year, Belgium was the first new customer for the F-35 in years, choosing it over the Eurofighter Typhoon to replace its aging F-16s in a 4 billion euro ($4.55 billion) deal.
Under President Donald Trump the United States is pushing a “Buy American” plan that eased restrictions on who could buy the F-35s in a bid to expand the sale of American weapons overseas.
Lockheed, the jet’s prime contractor, is developing and building three models of the new warplanes for the US military and 10 other countries jets: Britain, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Norway, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan, South Korea and also Belgium.