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Russia to be Turkey's 'First Choice' if Ankara Ousted From F-35 Project – Report

© REUTERS / Axel Schmidt / A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018
A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018 - Sputnik International
Turkey and the United States have been at loggerheads over Ankara’s decision to acquire Russia-built S-400 air defence systems, which prompted Washington to suspend its delivery of F-35 fighter jet parts to Turkey.

Turkey will pursue Russian fighter jet technology should the United States boot out Ankara from the multinational group developing the F-35 Lightning II, Defense News reported citing an unnamed Turkish official.

“Russian fighter technology would be the first best choice if our American allies behaved in an un-allied way and questioned Turkey’s membership in the Joint Strike Fighter programme”, a senior military officer told the media outlet.

Washington has been pressuring its NATO ally to abandon the S-400 deal with Russia, threatening to expel Ankara from the F-35 programme and introduce sanctions under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

S-400 the next-generation mobile missile system - Sputnik International
Turkish FM: S-400 Systems Acquired by Turkey Pose No Threat to F-35 Fighter Jets
If Turkey accepts the S-400, “no F-35s will ever reach the Turkish soil. And Turkish participation in the F-35 programme, including manufacturing parts, repairing and servicing the fighters, will be terminated, taking Turkish companies out of the manufacturing and supply chain for the programme”, a group of bipartisan lawmakers from the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote in early April.

This month, the Pentagon announced that it had frozen deliveries and activities with Ankara concerning the F-35 project over the Turkish side’s decision to purchase the S-400.

READ MORE: Turkish Minister on US Visit: Trump Showed 'Reasonable Approach' to S-400 Issue

Addressing the controversy, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated on Friday that Ankara had been unable to receive such systems from its NATO allies for some 10 years, and that Russia’s air defence systems do not pose a threat to US fifth-generation stealth fighter jets:

“The United States says that S-400 will increase the vulnerability of F-35 aircraft. We do not think so but let the experts express their opinion. We have proposed to create a joint commission, if they are so concerned about that. However, we have not received a response from the United States so far”.

Cavusoglu stressed that the S-400s will be under Ankara’s total control and insisted that Turkey’s NATO allies “must understand that we need air defence systems very urgently, and if we do not receive them from our allies, then we will take them where we can”.

READ MORE: 'US Must Choose': Turkey Hits Back at Pence With Own Ultimatum Amid S-400 Row

F-35 - Sputnik International
Turkey Insists It Will Remain Part of F-35 Programme Despite US Threats
Washington has repeatedly voiced concerns that if Turkey acquires both S-400s and F-35s, it will jeopardise US or NATO military equipment, since it would allegedly provide Russian experts with key insights into sensitive information related to the warplane’s technology.

Ankara, for its part, has maintained that the S-400s were not connected to the security of NATO, the US or the F-35 in any way, and the decision to purchase the systems “does not target a third country”.

Russia and Turkey sealed the $2.5 billion S-400 deal in December 2017, having signed a loan agreement for the shipment of a total of four batteries. The first delivery is scheduled for July 2019, according to Turkish authorities.

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