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Trump to Turkey: “We’re Not Going to Sell You the F-35 Fighter Jets”

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On Tuesday, it was reported that President Trump declared that his administration will not sell Turkey any F-35 Lightning II fighter jets because of its purchase of a Russian missile system. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

On Tuesday, it was reported that President Trump declared that his administration will not sell Turkey any F-35 Lightning II fighter jets because of its purchase of a Russian missile system. 

By: Fern Sidman

“It’s a very tough situation that they’re in. And it’s a very tough situation that we’ve been placed in, the United States,” Trump said. “With all of that being said, we’re working through it. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not really fair.” He added, “And we are now telling Turkey … we’re not going to sell you the F-35 fighter jets.”

Last weekend, it was reported that Turkey’s defense ministry announced that a fourth Russian cargo plane delivered more S-400 components to Murted Air Base near the capital of Ankara, ignoring threats of U.S. sanctions against the Middle Eastern country.

 VOA reported that last Friday a Russian transport jet delivered the first parts of the $2.2 billion missile system, causing concern from Brussels to Washington.

Washington says the S-400, with its advanced radar that could potentially be used to target NATO jets, threatens to compromise NATO military systems in Turkey. The US has stopped delivery of its latest F-35 jet if the Russia missiles are deployed, and Turkish firms may lose contracts to build significant parts of the expensive and complex F-35.

“We are aware of Turkey taking delivery of the S-400. Our position regarding the F-35 has not changed,” Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters last Friday. He held a 30-minute phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, but the Pentagon did not provide any details from the call, according to the VOA report.

The Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Action Fund issued their own statement last weekend urging Turkey’s dismissal from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program after Turkey began taking delivery of the Russian S-400 missile system.

“Under the leadership of President Erdogan, Turkey continues its regression away from democratic values and towards pariah status. The country’s economy is paying the price, and now so too must its military. Turkey must be removed from the F-35 program,” said CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandra Parker.

“We commend the bipartisanship leadership of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees for announcing their support for sanctioning Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act and removing Turkey from the F-35 program, and likewise welcome the bipartisan statement from the House Foreign Affairs Committee leaders calling for Turkey to be eliminated from the Joint Strike Fighter program,” Parker noted. 

“Turkey’s continued belligerence, from this latest move to supporting terror and making common cause with America’s enemies, makes the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act even timelier. Congress should move this bill forward without delay,” added CUFI Action Fund Director of Public Policy and Strategy Boris Zilberman.

The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act was one of three pieces of legislation the 5,000 attendees at last week’s CUFI Washington Summit lobbied in support of. The other pieces of legislation were the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act and the Countering Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Military Act.

The F-35 stealth fighter jet, known in Hebrew as the Adir (“mighty”), was rolled out in June of 2016 in a special ceremony in Forth Worth, Texas that was attended by officials from the Israel Air Force and Defense Minister, including then Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, as well as Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.

As the next generation jet stood majestically on the stage, emblazoned with a Star of David, top Israeli pilots heaped praise on the Lockheed Martin plane scheduled to be delivered to Israel in December.

“It was like holding the future in my hands,” said Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman, IAF Chief of Air Staff. “The unique combination between split edge technology, lethality and amazing man-machine interface will lead the world to the fifth generation”.

“I don’t think that it is an exaggeration to say that the presence of the F-35 in the Middle East will change the dynamic of the region for the better,” Kelman added.

“The IDF’s military strength is Israel’s main pillar of defense. The F-35s will dramatically enhance the IDF’s military power,” said Liberman. “Israel is the first country outside the US to receive these operational, excellent airplanes. The F-35 technology represents the crown jewel of air-power superiority and will therefore be a great contribution to the IDF’s air force.”

The rollout ceremony also featured a performance Israeli singer-songwriter David Broza, who sang his trademark ballads of peace.

Going off script for a moment, Liberman joked to Broza: “I’m not so optimistic like you about the possibility of achieving peace with our neighbors in the near future, but despite my personal position please try to create more new songs.”

Following the rollout ceremony, Minister Liberman entered the aircraft and scribbled on the jet with a Sharpie: “The best aircraft for the best pilots.”

 

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