On August 27th several members of the U.S. Congress paid a visit to Turkey seeking to lobby officials to abandon their contract with Moscow to acquire the S-400 surface to air missile system – a deal Western states have notably exerted considerably pressure on Ankara to terminate. With Turkey already threatened on a number of occasions with economic sanctions, a further threat has come in the form of termination of Turkish participation in the F-35 stealth fighter program. Turkey perviously planned to order over 100 of these costly next generation jets, though the deal is currently in an uncertain phase with deliveries frozen after just a single fighter was received – but Turkish fighter pilots nevertheless continuing their training to operate the jets in the United States. As Turkey has been a key partner in the F-35 program from its outset, and is a major producer of a number of the jet’s components, terminating the country from the deal is a far more complex procedure than it would be for external partners such as South Korea, Israel or Japan. Tacit threats to move to acquire the Russian Su-57 next generation air superiority fighter should the F-35 deal be cancelled, a platform arguably far better suited to the Turkish Air Force’s needs given its capabilities and the current composition of Turkey’s fleet, have further complicated the matter.
On August 28th U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis stated in a press briefing regarding Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 that it was a highly concerning development – reiterating previous comments strongly opposing the arms deal. His tone was notably softer than previous statements threatening Turkey directly, though such threats were interpreted by many analysts as being implicit when he warned that the United States strongly recommended aga
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