Following a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told reporters that Turkey would not be removed from the F-35 programme despite US threats to do so if Ankara does not abandon its S-400 deal with Russia.
"Turkey is and will continue to be a partner of F-35 technology. We are not just a client or buyer of F-35s", he said.
Earlier this week, Kalin warned that Ankara's exclusion from the fighter jet project would have a negative impact on the programme overall:
"Turkey's removal from the F-35 programme will not be a punishment for Turkey, it will damage the programme [itself]. Rather than using language of threats from sanctions against Turkey, I think the people here in Congress, as well as this administration should understand Turkey's security concerns", Kalin stated, adding that he didn't believe that Washington could "afford to lose Turkey" as a partner.
He continued by stressing that Ankara's "dialogue with Russia" and its decision to acquire its S-400s "does not target a third country": "We are a member of NATO. We value our strategic partnership with the United States", he concluded.
On 1 April, the US Department of Defence announced that it had halted its delivery of F-35 fighter jet parts to Turkey and that it's looking for secondary sources of supply for Turkish-produced parts:
"The United States has been clear that Turkey's acquisition of the S-400 is unacceptable. Therefore, the DoD has initiated steps necessary to ensure prudent programme planning and resiliency of the F-35 supply chain. Secondary sources of supply for Turkish-produced parts are now in development. […] Until they forgo delivery of the S-400, the United States has suspended deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey's F-35 operational capability. Should Turkey procure the S-400, their continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk", the Pentagon announced.
In the meantime, the US Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees once again warned of looming sanctions on Turkey last week and called on Ankara to make a choice.
“By the end of the year, Turkey will have either F-35 advanced fighter aircraft on its soil or a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defence system. It will not have both”, Republican Senators Jim Risch and Jim Inhofe, along with Democratic lawmakers Bob Menendez and Jack Reed, wrote in a New York Times article.
The US has repeatedly threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey in the framework of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a 2017 law drafted in response to Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election, if Turkey acquires Russian air defences.
Washington has long been concerned by the possibility of Ankara procuring S-400s along with F-35s, with the Pentagon worrying that it would allegedly give Russian experts key insights into confidential data related to the fighter jet's technology.