US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday told the Senate that American-made F-35 fighter jets cannot operate in the same airspace as the Russian S-400 missile system, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
“It is not possible to … fly the F-35 in space where the S-400 is significantly operable … the two cannot coexist,” the US’s top diplomat told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
He said the US had relayed “this technical challenge” to Turkey through both diplomatic and military channels.
Ankara decided to purchase the Russian-made S-400 system in 2017.
Since then, Washington has repeatedly warned that Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s could jeopardize its access to F-35 fighter jets.
Last week, the US suspended delivery of parts and other services related to F-35s.
US officials urged Turkey to buy the US Patriot missile system instead, arguing the S-400 would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.
Pompeo hinted at the possibility of sanctions through a law passed to punish a trio of other nations, because of the deal.
“The S-400 is a significant weapons system, and we’ve shared with them, we’ve asked them to go take a look at the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act [CAATSA], what that might well mean for them,” he said.
The CAATSA was passed in 2017 to impose sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia to combat those countries’ influences around the globe.
Pompeo said a deal for the American air defense system is now on the table and that the US acknowledges Turkey’s role in the F-35 program.
“We’ve made clear to the Turks as plainly as we can, they build a significant component of the F-35. Not only are they purchasers and customers, but they are part of the supply chain for the F-35,” Pompeo said. “We’ve made clear that none of that can exist if the S-400 is purchased by them.”
Turkey first joined the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program in 2002 and has invested more than $1.25 billion. It also manufactures various aircraft parts for all F-35 variants and customers.
Turkish firms have supplied the F-35 program with key components, including airframe structures and assemblies and the center fuselages.
While the dispute over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s continues, Russia’s presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that components of the Russian-made air defense system could be produced in Turkey.
“We are not talking about the complete production chain, as it is a new type of weapon. But the production of some components can be accomplished,” Peskov told reporters in Moscow.