A growing number of people seem to object to the sale of F-35 fighters to Turkey, and are calling on the US administration and Congress to cancel, suspend or modify an existing order by Ankara for the advanced jets if the latter moves ahead with its planned purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system from Russia.
The objections stem from concerns that Turkey will operate both the S-400 and the F-35s together, which could allow Russia to obtain data about the fighter jet, through the air defense system, and thus expose its vulnerabilities.
The planned purchase coincides with growing concern among NATO members as Turkey has strengthened its relationship with Russia and has become more authoritarian.
Similar concerns about the purchase were expressed last November by Heidi Grant, deputy undersecretary of the US Air Force for international affairs.
“It’s a significant concern, not only to the United States, because we need to protect this high-end technology, fifth-generation technology, but for all of our partners and allies that have already purchased the F-35,” she told Defense News in November.
US Congressman David Cicilline also called for the deal to be scrapped in July last year in response to an incident when bodyguards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assaulted protesters during his official visit to Washington.
The incident led to the blocking of the sale of semi-automatic weapons to Erdogan’s private guard. The most active proponents against the deal are reportedly congressmen of Greek and Armenian heritage. Turkey placed an initial order last year for 100 F-35s.
According to the timeframe of the manufacturing firm Lockheed Martin, the first 10 or 12 fifth-generation F-35s must be delivered to Turkey within 2018. The remaining jets will be delivered by 2022.