US officials have repeatedly threatened to withhold deliveries of F-35 fighter jets and to impose sanctions on Turkey if Ankara moves forward with the delivery of Russian-made S-400 air-defence systems. Russia is ‘ready to cooperate’ with Turkey to sell its Su-57 fighter jets if Ankara stops its participation in the F-35 jet programme, the head of Russia’s Rostec corporation, Sergei Chemezov, said, as quoted by the Turkish Anadolu news agency.
“These fifth-generation Russian fighter jets [Su-57] have outstanding qualities, and show promise for export,” Chemezov told Anadolu. This comes amid the ongoing tensions between Turkey and the US over Turkey’s intention to buy the S-400 air-defence systems from Russia. Washington says that these systems are incompatible with NATO air defence standards and thus put the F-35’s stealth technology in danger. The US has offered Turkey the option to buy its Patriot missile system instead of Russian S-400s.
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated that the S-400 purchase was a done deal and that it would meet its defence needs from elsewhere if necessary.
“If the United States is willing to sell, then we’ll buy Patriots. However, if the United States doesn’t want to sell, we may buy more S-400s or other systems,” Cavusoglu told Turkish broadcaster NTV.
Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar believes that if Washington excludes Turkey from the F-35 project it would put “very serious” burdens on the project’s eight other partner nations. In an interview with NTV on Friday the minister stressed that Turkey had fulfilled all of its “financial, legal and administrative responsibilities” under the US-led F-35 programme.
Originally Turkey planned to purchase at least one hundred F-35 Lightning II jets as part of the programme which Ankara joined in 2002.