The U.S. Senate endorsed a bill on Thursday night halting the transfer of F-35 jets to Turkey for an indefinite time. The four Senators who introduced the bill were the Democratic Party’s Jeanne Shaheen and Chris Van Hollen, and Republican counterparts James Lankford and Thom Tillis.
The new bill will bar the eventual transfer of F-35 fight jets to Turkey until the U.S. Government receives concrete evidence that Ankara will not receive Russia’s S-400 missile defence system. Turkey is an integral member of the US Joint Strike Fighter programme – a military development initiative which will produce the renowned F-35 latest generation aircrafts. Turkey is expected to receive the first F-35 jet by early November 2019.
Senators’ Justifications for the New Bill
Senator Shaheen initiated deliberations on the Senate about the new bill, underscoring that:
‘Make no mistake, the Kremlin is an adversary of the United States and many of our NATO allies. The prospect of Russia having access to U.S. aircraft and technology in a NATO country, Turkey, is a serious national and global security risk. Turkey is a critical ally, but until President Erdogan forgoes his perplexing efforts to acquire the S-400 air defence system, not a single F-35 aircraft should be delivered to Turkey. This bill makes it clear that NATO’s integrity, interoperability and security is a top foreign policy concern across all branches of the U.S. government. As such, this bipartisan bill will help ensure the safety and security of the United States and our transatlantic community.’
For his part, Senator Lankford argued that:
‘Turkey is an important NATO ally and willing partner in addressing a number of US national security priorities. It is concerning that Turkey would seek close defence cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and US interests at every turn. That is why I am glad to partner with Senators Shaheen, Van Hollen, and Tillis to introduce this bipartisan bill that sends a clear message to the Turkish government that it cannot have sensitive, state-of-the-art American military technology and Russian military technology.’
In a similar wavelength, Senator Tillis commented that:
‘Turkey is an important NATO partner and strategic ally, and I was greatly encouraged by Turkey’s release of Pastor Andrew Brunson last year. However, I remain deeply concerned about their attempts to buy and install the S-400 air defence system from Russia, an adversary of NATO. I strongly urge Turkey to cease this deal immediately so we can deliver the F-35 as originally planned and continue to work towards advancing the common interests of our countries.’
Finally, Senator Van Hollen concluded that:
‘As a member of NATO, Turkey must not undermine the security of the United States and our allies. Operating the Russian S-400 missile defence system alongside the F-35 aircraft would do exactly that, and we cannot allow that to happen. This bipartisan legislation would draw a hard line in the sand and protect vital national security interests, and the Senate should consider it without delay.’
An amended version of the bill was incorporated in the Federal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill requests from the U.S. Secretary of Defense to submit a course of action to the U.S. Congress delineating the successive steps for Turkey’s removal from the F-35 development programme. Turkey so far participates in the Joint Strike Fighter programme, being responsible for constructing cockpit displays, fuselage and landing gear components.