MOSCOW – US officials have threatened to deny the delivery of F-35 fighter jets and impose sanctions on Turkey if Ankara moves forward to buy Russia’s superior S-400 air defense systems.
Russia is “ready to cooperate” with Turkey to sell its Su-57 fighters if Ankara ends its participation in the F-35 fighter program, said the head of the Russian company Rostec Sergei Chemezov, quoted by the Turkish news agency Anadolu .
“These fifth-generation Russian fighters [Su-57] have remarkable qualities and will be exported,” Chemezov told Anadolu.
Turkey and the US are experiencing moments of tension as Ankara plans to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense systems. Washington says that such systems are inconsistent with NATO air defenses and thus jeopardize the stealth technology of F-35 fighters. The US offered Turkey the option of buying its Patriot missile system instead of the S-400s of the Russians. However the Turks are not interested in the Patriot missile system as it is much inferior compared to the Russian system.
However, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated that the purchase of the S-400 has already been made and that it meets the defense needs of the country.
“If the United States is willing to sell, we will buy Patriots, but if the United States does not want to sell, we can buy more S-400s or other systems,” Cavusoglu told Turkish broadcaster NTV.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar believes that if Washington excludes Turkey from the F-35 project, it would put a “very serious” burden on the other eight partner countries of the project. In an interview with NTV on Friday, the minister stressed that Turkey has fulfilled all of its “financial, legal and administrative responsibilities” under the US-led F-35 program.
Originally, Turkey planned to buy at least 100 F-35 Lightning II jets as part of the program, which Ankara joined in 2002.