The United States has halted delivery of equipment related to the F-35 stealth jet to Turkey, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday, marking the first concrete US step to block delivery of the jet to the NATO ally in light of Ankara’s planned purchase of a Russian missile defense system, Reuters reported
In recent days, US officials told their Turkish counterparts they will not receive further shipments of F-35 related equipment needed to prepare for the arrival of the stealth jet, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has refused to back down from Ankara’s planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system that the United States has said would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the next shipment of training equipment and all subsequent shipments of F-35-related material had been canceled. The aircraft is built by Lockheed Martin Corp.
The disagreement over the F-35 is the latest of a series of diplomatic disputes between the United States and Turkey including Turkish demands that the United States extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, differences over Middle East policy and the war in Syria and sanctions on Iran.
A Pentagon official had told Reuters in March that the United States had a number of items it could withhold in order to send Turkey a signal that the United States was serious about Ankara dropping its ambition to own the S-400.
In an attempt to persuade Turkey to drop its plans to buy the S-400, the United States offered the pricier American-made Patriot anti-missile system in a discounted deal that expired at the end of March. Turkey has shown interest in the Patriot system, but not at the expense of abandoning the S-400.
Turkey has engaged with US negotiators in recent days about buying the Patriot system, a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. The system is made by Raytheon Co.