US hints at refusal to sale 100 F 35 stealth fighter jets to leading Muslim country
WASHINGTON - The two NATO allies have disputed for months over Ankara's purchase order for Russia's S-400 air defence systems, which Washington claims could pose a threat to US F-35 fighter jets.
Two unnamed US officials revealed the decision on F-35 jet training, noting that chances for a policy reversal depended on Ankara.
The US officials said that the decision applied only to upcoming rounds of Turkish pilots and maintenance crews that normally would have come to the United States.
A formal decision on halting the training of Turkish pilots and maintenance crews at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, however, has not been made, Reuters reported citing officials.
It was reported than an F-35 U.S. military plane has crashed near the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina. The possibility of a reversal of the decision is open if Turkey alters its plans.
According to the US military, cited by Reuters, four Turkish pilots are currently training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Two additional Turkish pilots are at the US base working as instructors. Beyond those six Turkish officers, there are an additional 20 Turkish aircraft maintenance personnel at the base undergoing training.
Meanwhile, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for European and NATO Policy Andrew Winternitz said on Thursday that if Turkey purchased both the S-400 and the F-35 for its armed forces, it could study ways to use the Russian defence system more effectively against US fifth-generation aircraft.
On Tuesday, US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said that Turkey must back down and cancel plans to purchase the S-400. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains committed to going through with the deal.
Washington has reportedly given Ankara until the end of the first week of June to either abandon the S-400 deal with Russia or face penalties, which would include sanctions, removal from Lockheed Martin's F-35 jet program and cancellation of the delivery of 100 F-35 jets.