Shortening of F-35 pilot training program not in line with Washington-Ankara alliance: Turkish DM
Iran Press TV
Wed Jun 12, 2019 01:14PM
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has criticized Washington for its recent decision to halt the training of Turkish pilots on F-35 stealth fighter jets at an airbase in the US state of Arizona over Ankara's plans to buy advanced Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems, stating that the measure is against "the spirit of alliance.”
"We have noticed [...] that the manner is not in line with the spirit of alliance. We are accordingly preparing a response,” Akar told reporters in the northern Azerbaijani city of Gabala on Wednesday.
He added Turkey has always remained committed to its responsibility toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US.
"To date, we have fulfilled all of our responsibilities without any delay or interruption toward the US and NATO,” the Turkish defense chief said.
Akar further noted that he will hold a telephone conversation with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday, and will meet his counterparts from NATO member states at a meeting in the Belgian capital city of Brussels by the end of this month.
US officials announced on Monday that Washington had halted the training of Turkish pilots on F-35 fighters at Luke Air Force Base.
"The department is aware that the Turkish pilots at Luke AFB are not flying,” Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters news agency.
On April 24, Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country will look elsewhere for an alternative to American F-35 fighter jets if Washington blocks the delivery of its advanced stealth warplanes to Ankara.
Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 in December 2017.
Back in April 2018, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of the S-400. At the time, it was said that the delivery could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.
A number of NATO member states have criticized Turkey for its planned purchase of the S-400, arguing the missile batteries are not compatible with those of the military alliance.
They also argue that the purchase could jeopardize Ankara's acquisition of F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in US sanctions.
The S-400 is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.
Ankara is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkish border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey's air defense.
Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly walked out of a $3.4-billion contract for a similar Chinese system. The withdrawal took place under purported pressure from Washington.
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