Wed, Jul 25, 2018 - Page 7 News List

F-35 transfers to Turkey held up under US defense action

Bloomberg

Transfers to Turkey of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 would be barred temporarily under a compromise defense policy measure agreed to on Monday, according to US House of Representative and Senate aides.

Turkish receipt of the fighter jets would be held back until the US Pentagon submitted an assessment within 90 days of the measure’s enactment on US-Turkish relations, the effect of Turkey’s planned acquisition of Russia’s advanced S-400 missile defense system and the ramifications for the US industrial base if Turkey is dropped from the international F-35 program.

The move, reflecting the tensions in US-Turkish relations, is part of a US$717 billion defense policy bill (H.R. 5515) for fiscal 2019 crafted by congressional negotiators that awaits final approval in the House and Senate.

The measure would hold back some funds for US Department of Defense cloud activities, reflecting the controversy over a winner-take-all cloud contract that competitors say would favor Amazon.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis had said that the US Congress should not cut off transfers of the F-35.

In a letter to lawmakers this month, Mattis said he agreed “with congressional concerns about the authoritarian drift in Turkey and its impact on human rights and rule of law.”

However, he said an F-35 cutoff would risk triggering an international “supply chain disruption” that would drive up costs and delay deliveries of the fighter.

Under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey plans to buy about 100 F-35s, joining the UK and Australia as the top international customers.

At least 10 Turkish companies are building parts and components, such as the cockpit displays, for other partners, according to Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed.

The compromise measure crafted by the US House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committees also would let US President Donald Trump waive a requirement to impose sanctions on countries and entities doing business with Russia for as long as 180 days if the party involved is taking steps to distance itself from a commercial relationship with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, according to committee aides and a Democratic summary of the bill.

There, too, Mattis had urged lawmakers to hold off, writing them last week that “there is a compelling need to avoid significant unintended damage to our long-term, national strategic interests.”

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