Israel Wants US to Keep F-35 'Upgrade Capabilities' Secret From Turkey – Reports

© AP Photo / Rick BowmerIn this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, file photo, an F-35 jet arrives at its new operational base at Hill Air Force Base, in northern Utah.
In this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, file photo, an F-35 jet arrives at its new operational base at Hill Air Force Base, in northern Utah. - Sputnik International
Israel and the United States are holding talks on the supply of F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey amid uncertainties over the fate of the deliveries in the US, Haaretz reported.

According to a top Israeli defense official, the Jewish state seeks to remain the only country in the region with F-35 jets to maintain its military’s qualitative edge. The discussions between Israel and the United States have also reportedly touched upon the jet’s performance-enhancing software; unnamed sources confirmed to Haaretz that the matter is “part of the negotiations,” while Israel has denied having talks over the F-35 deal, under which Turkey is expected to obtain 100 stealth fighter jets.

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The Israeli Air Force is set to receive software that will upgrade the plane's capabilities in July, and Tel Aviv is concerned that Turkey will also obtain it and is allegedly discussing the possibility of delivering jets to Ankara without the software.

The deal has drawn criticism from within the US Congress, with several lawmakers calling to halt the planned sales of more than 100 fighter jets.

"Our concern is that Turkey is going through a very dramatic transition as a country. Turkey has gone a long way from being a NATO ally and an important partner in working against terrorism, to the situation today, where it is holding an American citizen as a bargaining chip. This is not the behavior of an ally," Senator James Lankford told Haaretz, alluding to Andrew Brunson, a pastor, held in custody in Turkey since last year.

According to Lankford, this incident has shown that Turkey is becoming less reliable as an ally to the United States, and suggested withholding the technology from them.

"My concern is — they're a NATO ally, they have been a good partner for years, but if we don't know what the country is going to be like in a few years, we should withhold this resource from them," Lankford elaborated.

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The senator went on to say that the US had "no hesitation with Israel. When we give them the F-35 or other military equipment, we know how they will use it. We know what they will and won't do. I'm not sure we can say the same about Turkey."

He also told the media outlet that recent disagreements between Turkey and the US on foreign policy issues should prompt the latter to “take a pause” and reconsider the F-35 deal, as well as other forms of military cooperation. The Israeli Embassy in Washington has yet to comment on the issue.

"No one here has any doubt that Israel prefers to stay the only country in the region that has these attack capabilities. The Israelis know how to make that clear, in their own ways, Lankford concluded.

Last week, the Israeli Air Force claimed that Israel had become the first country in the world to have carried out an attack using the F-35 stealth fighter jet.

READ MORE: Turkey Cannot Confirm Plans to Purchase Su-57 Jets Instead of F-35 — Source

Earlier this month, US Congressman David Cicilline proposed a bill in the House of Representatives to ban the sale of the jets to Turkey, citing its “thuggish, reprehensible behavior.”

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The Turkish Yeni Safak media outlet reported on the potential delivery of Russian Su-57 fighter jets if Washington decides to suspend the supplies of F-35s in response to the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-missile systems. However, a source in the secretariat of the Turkish defense industry has told Sputnik that the reports were based on experts’ opinions and did not reflect the official position of Ankara.

The reports come a month after Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell said Turley’s purchase of the S-400s from Russia could negatively affect the delivery of the F-35s to Ankara.

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