U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of U.S. forces in Europe and the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 5th that he would recommend that the United States not sell Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 jets to its NATO ally Turkey if Ankara does not drop its plans to buy S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems from Russia.
General Scaparrotti said that "My best military advice would be that we don't then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that's working with Russian systems, particularly air defence systems, with what I would say is probably one of most advanced technological capabilities,"
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly said Ankara is committed to buying the Russian system, despite claims from NATO that the S-400s cannot be integrated into its air defence system. In February, Erdoğan said that
"We have made the S-400 deal with Russia, so it is out of question to take a step back. The job is done. When it comes to the Patriots, we are open to buying them. However, this purchase needs to serve the interests of our country."
US officials have said that if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase, Washington will withdraw its offer to sell a USD 3.5 billion Raytheon Co Patriot missile package. In August 2018, the Trump administration approved a defence budget law delaying delivery of F-35 jets to Turkey, citing Turkey's purchase from the Russians, and two months later, a Pentagon report said Turkey could face expulsion from the F-35 program if it goes ahead with the purchase.
Turkey had signed the deal with Russia in December 2017 for the USD 2.5 billion purchase of two batteries of the S-400 system, Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system. If the deal goes ahead, Turkey will be the first NATO member country to acquire the system.
Turkey has been in the F-35 program since 1999, and the Turkish defence industry has taken an active role in the production of aircraft and investing some USD 1.25 billion in the aircraft's development. Turkey had planned to purchase 100 F-35 fighter jets, of which 30 had been approved, and took delivery of its first F-35 fighter jet at a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 21st, 2018. Two more F-35s are expected to be delivered by March 2019.