US senators are turning up the pressure over the F35 fighter jet sale to Turkey, with new restriction proposals that could possibly make the delivery of the stealth warplanes more difficult.
The political steps aimed at delaying Turkey’s acquisition of prepaid stealth warplanes have gained ground when senators sought to block Turkey from receiving the stealth warplanes, citing a deterioration of the US-Turkish relations.
Those concerns were intensified following Turkey’s response to a July 2016 coup inside the country as well as over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft system.
Senators from both parties introduced a new amendment that would ban the Pentagon from using funds to transfer the jets to Turkey until Washington confirms that the Russian S-400 won’t be installed in that country.
'Turkey’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'
But the Pentagon could have concerns that are more practical than political.
According to US experts, the S-400 could potentially gather technical data on F-35 capabilities that could end up in Moscow’s hands, either intentionally or unintentionally through a back door in the Russian designed system.
Senator Chris Van Hollen said last week that “Turkey’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,” the senator said.
The worries were echoed in statements made by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who indicated that the US was concerned more about the location proximity between the S-400 and the F35 jets.
“We would not want to have that aircraft close to the S-400,” she said.
But Wilson did not elaborate on whether those restrictions would allow for Turkey to acquire the F35 fighter jets.
Turkey, a longtime participant in the development of the F-35 programme, plans to purchase 100 F35 jet fighters as it seeks to boost national security and defence.