Dunford: Doesn’t Make Sense to Sell F-35s to Turkey if Ankara Buys Russian S-400s

The first F-35A produced for Turkey is unveiled during a June 2018 ceremony at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility. Lockheed Martin photo.

The US government will have a hard time justifying giving Turkey the most advanced fighter aircraft if it also fields advanced Russian-made surface to air missiles, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, speaking Thursday at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., said both the US executive and legislative branches of government “are going to have a hard time reconciling the presence of the S400 and the most advanced fighter aircraft” inside Turkey. While the US and Turkey are close allies, with “many more areas of convergence than divergence,” the idea of selling the F-35 to the country as it may bring in Russian-made missiles is a “tough issue,” though one he said still could be resolved.

Dunford’s comments come shortly after Reuters reported the US could soon freeze preparations for delivering F-35s to Turkey.

“The S-400 is a computer. The F-35 is a computer. You don’t hook your computer to your adversary’s computer and that’s basically what we would be doing,” Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told the news agency.

Turkey has accepted delivery of two F-35s, which are at Luke AFB, Ariz., for training. The country expects to buy 100 of the aircraft. The F-35 program is also looking at alternatives to an engine depot in Turkey. There also are eight Turkish companies that have supported the development of the aircraft or the jet’s engine, according to the program office.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this month that buying the S-400 is a “done deal,” and he was also considering buying the more advanced S-500 system.