Shanahan Expects F-35 Deal With Turkey

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan meets with the Minister of Defence for Mongolia Nyamaagiin Enkhbold at the Pentagon on April 2, 2019. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan thinks the F-35 impasse with Turkey will be resolved, and that country will agree, as the US has requested, to buy the Raytheon Patriot air defense system rather than the Russian S-400 Triumf.

Meeting briefly with reporters Tuesday, Shanahan was asked what would happen to Turkey’s F-35s, now in the international F-35A training rotation at Luke AFB, Ariz.

“I expect them to be delivered,” Shanahan said. “I am very confident in the Patriot proposal that we’ve delivered to Turkey; its availability, its pricing, and very importantly, the industrial participation that comes along with [it].”

Shanahan said he’s had “a number of conversations” with Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, “and I really think we’ll resolve this situation with our strategic partners.” Asked to elaborate, Shanahan would only add, “I expect we’ll solve the problem so that they have the right defense equipment in terms of Patriots and F-35s.”

The Pentagon on Monday announced it was halting the transfer of F-35 parts and technology to Turkey, one of the Joint Strike Fighters’ international partners, because of Turkey’s insistence on buying the Russian S-400. Senior Pentagon officials and members of Congress have expressed deep concern that if Russian technicians operating the S-400 for Turkey have an opportunity to turn it on Turkey’s F-35s, crucial stealth secrets could be compromised and Russia might learn a way to track and target the fighter.

The US has offered the Raytheon-built Patriot air defense system to Turkey at a discount, in lieu of the S-400 system. Despite US protests, Turkey has been adamant that it will go ahead with the S-400 sale, and the system will be activated this summer. Turkey is slated to accept its first F-35s in-country this fall.