Erdoğan claims F-35 project will collapse without Turkey’s participation

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A US soldier guards a US F35 stealth aircraft at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) in Seongnam, south of Seoul, on October 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES

President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that an F-35 fighter jet project without Turkish participation was bound to collapse and that it would be an injustice to exclude Ankara over its plans to buy a Russian air defense system, Reuters reported. 

Turkey’s plans to buy Russian S-400 missiles has strained its ties with Washington, which has said they would compromise the security of Lockheed Martin F-35 jets and warned of potential US sanctions. 

Turkey is both a partner in the production of the F-35s and a prospective buyer. It has proposed a working group with the United States to assess the impact of the S-400s but says it had not received a response from US officials. 

Speaking at a defense industry fair, Erdoğan said people trying to exclude Turkey from the F-35 project had not thought through the process and that Ankara’s allies had disregarded its defense needs. 

“We were surely not going to remain silent in the face of our right to self-defense being disregarded and attempts to hit us where it hurts,” Erdoğan said. “This is the kind of process that was behind the S-400 agreement we reached with Russia,” he added. 

“Nowadays, we are being subjected to a similar injustice — or rather an imposition — on the F-35s. Let me be clear: An F-35 project from which Turkey is excluded is bound to collapse completely,” Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey was also working to develop its own air defense system. 

Erdoğan’s comments, his strongest challenge yet to warnings that Turkey could be removed from the F-35 project, came a day after he discussed the purchase of the S-400s and the working group proposal with US President Donald Trump in a phone call.

Turkey said two weeks ago it expected Trump to use a waiver to protect it against penalties over its purchase of the S-400s, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Ankara could face retribution for the deal under a sanctions law known as Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSAA).

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