US senators push bill to stop transfer of F-35 jets to Turkey

A group of senators introduced legislation Thursday to prohibit the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, citing concerns about Ankara's plans to purchase the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

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 prospect of Russia having access to U.S. aircraft and technology in a NATO country, Turkey, is a serious national and global security risk," said Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, one of the four co-authors of the bill.

Turkey is a production partner in the trillion-dollar F-35 fighter jet program but Ankara also wants to purchase a Russian missile defense system, which the United States says would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.

Turkey is the sole provider of the panoramic cockpit display and its missile remote interface unit of the F-35.

As warned by members of his own administration, Trump's decision to act in bad faith toward the U.S.' NATO ally could backfire, as Turkey holds a valuable stake in the production of the F-35 jets.

A tit-for-tat over the F-35s could leave the U.S. and all other parties with stakes in the F-35 program short-suited, a much costlier bet than the $12 billion profit expected by participating Turkish firms.

In December 2017, Ankara agreed to buy two Russian-made S-400s in a deal worth over $2 billion. Turkish officials have repeatedly said that the purchase of the S-400 systems was made to fulfill the country's security needs. With the purchase of the S-400s, Ankara aims to boost its defense capabilities amid threats from PKK and Daesh terrorists at home and conflicts across its borders in Syria and Iraq.

Ankara has been disappointed with its NATO allies for their lack of cooperation in meeting its defense needs. On Oct. 25, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey would begin the installment of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in October 2019.

Turkish officials have repeatedly stressed the purchase of the S-400s was a done deal and could not be canceled.

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