On Wednesday, the US Senate passed its annual National Defense Authorization Act; the bill now requires President Trump's signature to become law. Among the bill's provisions is a requirement that the Defense Department review the sale of Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II fifth-gen stealth fighters to Turkey. Ankara, which has invested $175 million into the $1.5 trillion F-35 program, vowed that it would "take legal measures" against Washington if steps were taken to prevent the delivery of the 30 planes it has ordered.
Speaking to Sputnik Turkey, Erdogan Karakus, a retired Turkish Air Force Lieutenant-General and the head of the Turkish Union of Retired Officers, warned that Turkey's participation in the F-35 program dates back to the 1990s, and annulling it now would cause damage to the US itself.
"This project is more than just a decades-long partnership. In Turkey, 8-10 companies are engaged in the production of components for the F-35, among them are important components. A violation of this agreement would cause serious damage not only to Turkey, but also the United States," the officer warned.
Ultimately, the retired general stressed that Ankara always has alternatives. "In a situation where there is no longer any hope on such an important agreement with the US…Turkey will reorient itself. One such alternative is a rapprochement with Russia. Moreover, for some time, Turkey will be able to direct its productive forces toward the creation of its own military aircraft."
Turkish-US relations, which have faced a long-running downward spiral since the July 2016 coup attempt, which Ankara believes was organized by US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, took a turn for the worst in recent weeks over the F-35 debacle and the detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson. Washington slapped two Turkish officials with sanctions after demands to release Brunson went unheeded, with President Trump threatening unspecified "large sanctions." Turkish Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu brushed off the warnings, saying that Turkey would "never tolerate threats from anybody."
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