WASHINGTON, Dc — Four U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey until the U.S. government certifies that Ankara will not take delivery of a Russian S-400 air defense system, a statement on the move said.
The senators – Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Chris Van Hollen and Republicans James Lankford and Thom Tillis – have all expressed alarm over Turkey’s planned purchase of Russian missiles and said the NATO ally cannot have both.
“The prospect of Russia having access to U.S. aircraft and technology in a NATO country, Turkey, is a serious national and global security risk,” Shaheen said. Reuters last week reported that the United States could soon freeze preparations for delivering F-35s to Turkey. While no decision has been made, any such move would be a massive blow to already strained ties between Washington and Ankara.
“Turkey is an important NATO ally and willing partner in addressing a number of U.S. national security priorities,” said Lankford. “It’s concerning that Turkey would seek close defense cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and U.S. interests at every turn.” So far Ankara has not shown any willingness to reverse the S-400 purchase.
The bill defines the “transfer” of the F-35s as being relocated outside the continental U.S. and does not apply to fighter jets being operated by American forces.
Two F-35s have already been delivered to Turkey, and are currently at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where Turkish pilots are training with the aircraft. These jets were scheduled to be transferred in November.
Two more jets are expected to be delivered soon.
Washington has cautioned the S-400 system might covertly obtain critical information on the advanced fighter jets, including their detection range, which could then be relayed to Russia.
“This bill makes it clear that NATO’s integrity, interoperability, and security is a top foreign policy concern across all branches of the U.S. government,” the senators said.