US in Talks with Turkey on Purchase of Russian S-400, Wilson Says

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson speaks Tuesday at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. Screenshot photo

The Trump Administration is negotiating with Turkey over the plan by that country, a NATO member, to buy the S-400 missile system from Russia, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Tuesday.

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that while Turkey had announced plans to buy the system, there was still time to convince Turkish leaders a better system was available.

Taking questions during a presentation at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., Wilson did not provide details of current bilateral talks led by Defense and State Department officials on the issue, but said the move “does present some operational problems that we’re discussing with Turkey … particularly as it relates to the location of advanced aircraft in Turkey,” including US-made aircraft such as the F-35.

“We would not want to have that aircraft close to the S-400,” she said.

“Those discussions are going on with Turkey, and I think that we are hopeful that that can be resolved before they would take delivery of that aircraft into Turkey itself,” she said.

She also said that sometimes the US is part of the problem when allies try to acquire interoperable equipment.

“We’ve had some of our allies that are trying to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles, for example,” she told the gathering, but export controls prevent them from obtaining US products, “so we force them into a situation where they want to buy unmanned aircraft or even intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that are built by China.”

That, she said, “creates problems,” so “we need some kind of rule” to figure out how build products that are designed to be exportable from the start “so that we can all operate off the same equipment rather than create problems for an American aircraft sitting on a ramp next to a Chinese-built intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.”

“That doesn’t work,” she said.