U.S. Stops Training Turkish F-35 Pilots Because of Deal with Russia

After the dispute between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. because of the fact that Turkey decided to buy a Russian defense system, the U.S. stopped accepting Turkish applicants for a training program that teaches pilots to fly the new F-35 fighter jets made in the U.S.

According to Reuters, the Trump administration has put on hold plans to train further pilots beyond a handful currently being trained on the fighter jet systems at an Air Force base in Arizona.

The decision could be reversed if Ankara backs down from plans to purchase a Russian air defense system which Pentagon officials say is designed to shoot down aircraft like the F-35, according to two U.S. officials.

Acting Assistant Defense Secretary Kathryn Wheelbarger issued a statement in which she said: “The S-400 is a Russian system designed to shoot down an aircraft like the F-55. And it is inconceivable to imagine Russia not taking advantage of that intelligence collection opportunity.’’

According to The Hill, the Pentagon is reportedly in talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government over the potential purchase of a Patriot missile battery as a substitute for the Russian defense system, which would satisfy the Defense Department’s demands. Officials have said that the U.S. will not approve a potential $9 billion sale of F-35 to Turkey if the deal with Russia is approved.

“The United States has suspended deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability. Should Turkey procure the S-400, their continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk,’’ the Pentagon stated earlier this year.

Back in April, a spokesman added to the subject: “The United States has been clear that Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 is unacceptable. We very much regret the current situation facing our F-35 partnership with Turkey, and the Department of Defense is taking prudent steps to protect the shared investments made in our critical technology.’’

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