Patrick Shanahan, acting United States Defense Secretary, said the US wants its NATO ally, Turkey, to remain in the F-35 fighter jet program, but added that the Turkish government needs to buy the Patriot air defense system.
During a House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Shanahan was asked if the US wanted Turkey in the F-35 program.
“We absolutely do,” Pentagon chief said, adding, “But we need Turkey to buy the Patriot.”
The S-400 air defense system deal between Turkey and Russia, signed in 2017, caused ongoing friction between the two NATO allies as the US expressed strong disapproval of the deal.
Earlier this month, acting Pentagon spokesman, Charles Summer, said that Turkey’s purchase of the S- 400 missile defense system from Russia would result in grave consequences for the country.
The US and several NATO member countries that are part of the F-35 program have concerns regarding Turkey’s S-400 move, citing the vulnerability of sensitive information linked to the F-35 program if it is operated together with S-400 defense systems.
US officials have said that if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase, Washington could block the sale of the fighter jets to Turkey and impose sanctions, Reuters reported on 1 March.
Turkey has shown determination to push ahead with the S-400 purchase plan and has refused a US offer to buy the Patriot air defense missiles.
Turkey is set to receive its first two F-35s at the end of 2019, while the Russian S-400s are set to arrive in July.