The American general nominated to lead the NATO military alliance has told Congress that
while Turkey remains an important ally, it should not get advanced U.S. F-35 fighter jets
if it purchases Russian S-400 air defenses as planned.
"The S-400 and the F-35 are not compatible, and if Turkey proceeds down a path to procure and operate
the S-400, they should not get the F-35,"
Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters said at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Wolters is commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa and has been nominated to serve
as both head of U.S. European Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.
The Pentagon announced Monday that it has suspended deliveries and activities associated with the
stand-up of Turkey's F-35 operational capability and warned that if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400,
its "continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk."
"We all understand that Turkey is an important ally in the region, but it's absolutely unsustainable to
support co-location of an F-35 and S-400,"
"The S-400 is incompatible from a standpoint because it speaks a different language than NATO English.
And it certainly is not interoperable."
U.S. officials hope that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having just suffered
a setback in local elections, has second thoughts about bucking the NATO alliance
by buying advanced Russian anti-aircraft missiles.
"We very much regret the current situation facing our F-35 partnership with Turkey,"
said acting chief Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers in a statement Monday.
"Our important dialogue on this matter will continue."
Turkey is not just a customer for the Lockheed-Martin F-35, it's also one of eight international
partner nations that build key components for the plane, including parts of fuselage and cockpit displays.
The Pentagon has begun to plan for the loss of Turkey as a partner in the project, saying that
"secondary sources of supply for Turkish-produced parts are now in development."