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Military Capabilities

US Senate defence policy bill bans F-35 transfers to Turkey

24 May 2019
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Key Points

  • The SASC FY 2020 defence bill bans F-35 transfers to Turkey if the nation moves forward with acquiring the Russian S-400 system
  • This is the first step in a process that, if approved by the president, could formally ban sending F-35s to Turkey

The US fiscal year 2020 (FY 2020) defence authorisation bill approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on 23 May bans Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) transfers to Turkey if it proceeds with acquiring the Russian S-400 air and missile defence system.

This provision also applies to equipment intellectual property (IP), technical data necessary for the maintenance and support of the F-35, and for the construction of facilities in Turkey to store the aircraft. This is contingent on the secretaries of defence and state certifying that Turkey has not accepted delivery of the S-400 from Russia and Turkey providing reliable assurances it will not do so in the future, according to a summary of the legislation. Turkey expects delivery of its first F-35 as early as third quarter 2020 and to receive the S-400 system as soon as next month.

The US SASC approved its version of the FY 2020 defence authorisation bill that would ban F-35 transfers to Turkey if it acquires the Russian S-400 air defence system. (Lockheed Martin)The US SASC approved its version of the FY 2020 defence authorisation bill that would ban F-35 transfers to Turkey if it acquires the Russian S-400 air defence system. (Lockheed Martin)

Turkey and the US appear to be entrenching their positions over the S-400 and the F-35. The Pentagon has halted the transfer of F-35A support equipment to Turkey. Jane’s reported on 23 May that Turkey, on the other hand, has not only sent military personnel to Russia to receive training on the S-400 but has also accelerated plans to build the Turkish Fighter Experimental (TFX) aircraft with assistance from the United Kingdom’s BAE Systems. Turkey is to buy 100 F-35A conventional variants and while it has already received 2, these remain in the US.

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