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    F-35 Program to Be at Risk if Turkey Removed Over S-400 Row - Former US Congressman

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The entire F-35 fighter jet program could be at risk if Turkey is excluded following Ankara's purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems, according to a Monday statement from former US congressman and co-founder of Turkish Caucus, H.E. Edward Whitfield.

    When asked if the F-35 program is at risk in Washington removes Turkey from it, Whitfield said, "Yes".

    "A number of parts are manufactured in Turkey. Turkey is one of the main maintenance hubs for the F-35 program in Europe and so if they can't be a participant we're going to have to make major adjustments. Those will be very important adjustments. We don't really know what all the answers are right now", Whitfield said. "I think it will hurt the relationship between the two countries, there are major ramifications from this. If you remove Turkey from the F-35 program there are major ramifications of that and so this could shake the foundations of the NATO alliance as it relates to Turkey".

    The United States claims that Russia's S-400 systems are not compatible with NATO defences and may compromise the F-35 stealth jet project. Washington said in June that it would not accept more Turkish pilots for F-35 training unless Ankara abandoned its agreement with Russia. Turkey has refused, saying it was a done deal.

    "From military leaders in the US, from military leaders with NATO, with politicians in the US, it's a major issue because we have a NATO member country activating a missile defence system from Russia and concerned about F-35 security. It's a big issue, it's unchartered waters, and there can be major ramifications from the implementation of the S-400 system in Turkey", Whitfield pointed out.

    Whitfield asserted that there will be sanctions against Turkey.

    "In the legislation there's 12 separate sanctions and they select five and I wouldn't be able to speculate on what the five might be. Mr. Erdogan has said he doesn't think there will be any sanctions because he thinks he's convinced President Trump not to do it. I think most people believe there will be sanctions", he noted.

    The former congressman expressed hope for further discussions on the matter between Ankara and Washington.

    "I think there's always solutions and hopefully there will be continued negotiations. We've had negotiations between President Trump and Erdogan. We've had military discussions, we've had bureaucrat discussions, we've had politician discussions, all that is going to continue", he said.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday commented on the delivery of Russian S-400 air defence systems, noting that Turkey aims to manufacture the advanced air defence systems jointly with Russia.

    Moscow and Ankara signed a loan agreement in December 2017 for the delivery of the S-400 air defence systems to Turkey. Turkish military cooperation with Russia has been strongly criticized by NATO and the United States, and the latter has cited security concerns and the S-400's incompatibility with NATO's air defence systems.

    Russia began delivering parts of the missile systems to Turkey on 12 July.

    On Sunday, Erdogan said that as many as 100 Turkish experts had been sent to Russia to learn to operate the Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems.

    According to media reports, the United States has a package of sanctions against Turkey over the procurement of S-400 systems ready, which could be announced later in July.

    Erdogan stressed that the process of importing and installing the S-400 systems in Turkey would be over by April 2020.

    In addition, Erdogan called the S-400 deal the most important in Turkish history as it is a step to co-production with Russia as well as a step to a dialogue about S-500 air defence systems. Ankara is thinking about the future, the Turkish leader said, stressing that his country was purchasing the S-400 system only to ensure its national security and not to prepare for military actions.

    He also noted that NATO should be happy that Turkey was getting Russian missile systems.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    risks, program, purchase, F-35, S-400, United States, Turkey
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