Trump Bans F-35 Sales to Turkey As S-400 Begins Delivery

Components of the S-400 air defense system are unloaded from a Russian cargo plane in Turkey on July 12, 2019. Screenshot of a Turkish Ministry of National Defence video via Voice of America.

The US will not sell F-35s to Turkey in response to its acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, President Donald Trump said July 16, adding that Turkey is in a “tough situation.”

“We’re working through it,” Trump told reporters. “We’ll see what happens, but it’s not really fair.”

Turkey began receiving the first S-400 components on July 12, after months of Pentagon warnings that it would be kicked out of the F-35 program if it went through with the buy. The government is expected to levy sanctions against Turkey.

Shortly before Trump’s remarks, his nominee for defense secretary, Army Secretary Mark Esper, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Turkey’s decision to go forward with the S-400 is “certainly disappointing.” The move also shows that Turkey has “drifted over the past several years” away from close relationships with the US and NATO, Esper said.

“Acquisition of the S-400 fundamentally undermines the capabilities of the F-35 and our ability to maintain that overmatch in the skies going forward,” he said.

Esper and Trump’s remarks were the first public statements from the US on the issue since Turkey began receiving the S-400. The Pentagon has scheduled and postponed multiple press briefings on the topic.