An amendment to a spending bill successfully attached by US Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland will bar the sale of US-made F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, with fears they could be used against Greece – but allow it if Turkey doesn’t go ahead with plans to also buy a Russian S-400 missile defense system.
Van Hollen, whose wife is Greek-Orthodox, said the measure would prohibit as well the transfer of the Joint Strike Fighters that are far superior to the F-16s being used by the Greek Air Force, whose pilots regularly engage in mock dog fights with Turkish jets that violate Greek air space with no rebuke from NATO, to which both countries belong.
Greek-American organizations have lobbied to stop the sale of the jets but two have already been delivered. An outcry from Congressman and Greek-American groups that Turkey could use F-35 jets against Greece was ignored with the news website Defense News earlier reporting the sale would go ahead.
The amendment, which passed with strong bipartisan support in Committee, was sponsored by the Chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.).
Senior defense officials said if Turkey operates both the F-35 and the S-400, it could compromise the F-35’s security, including the aircraft’s stealth capabilities, and represent a strategic threat to the United States, his office said.
“It would also compromise the security of our allies and stand in clear violation of the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act. This new legislative language goes a step further than the National Defense Authorization Act that the Senate passed this week, which restricts funding on the transfer of F-35 aircrafts to Turkey until the Secretary of Defense issues a report on removing Turkey from the F-35 program,” he said.
But Van Hollen is not opposed to letting Turkey acquire the F-35s even though that puts the Greek Air Force and pilots at a strategic and tactical disadvantage with Greece seeking only to upgrade its older F-16s after much wrangling with the US.
“I support the transfer of F-35 advanced aircraft to Turkey, but not if they proceed with the acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defense system – this move would jeopardize the national security of the United States and our other allies,” he said.
He added that, “urkey’s acquisition of both systems would allow the Russians to more easily evaluate the capabilities of the F-35 and detect and exploit its vulnerabilities. That is unacceptable. This provision makes it clear that if Turkey ignores the concerns of its NATO allies and moves forward with this partnership with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, it will no longer receive F-35s,” said Senator Van Hollen.
HOLD YOUR JETS
Turkey held a flamboyant and bizarre ceremony to celebrate its first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but if the US Senate has its way, those two fighters will be the only ones they get, Business Insider reported.
Upon receiving its first-ever F-35s from the US, Turkey held a memorable celebration that gave viewers a “taste of Turkey’s rich heritage and diverse culture,” with a long introduction song that depicted skydivers, birds, and ended with a man dressed as a bird or plane doing an aviation-themed dance, the site said.
Turkey wants to buy 100 of the advanced fighters. Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider NATO countries “don’t want to be networking in Russian systems into your air defenses” as it could lead to “technology transfer and possible compromises of F-35 advantages to the S-400.”
If Turkey owned the F-35 and the S-400, it would give Russia a window into NATO’s missile defense network and the F-35’s next-generation capabilities,it was said, defeating the purpose of the defense alliance and with no explanation why NATO isn’t moving against one of its members for buying a missile defense system from the alliance’s perceived enemy.
Lockheed Martin, which built the jets, said it expected expected the sale to go through and all the planes to be delivered, but if the House backs up the Senate, and President Donald Trump goes along, , Turkey could be stuck with only two F-35s for a long time.