U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson placed part of the blame on the U.S. for Turkey’s insistence to buy S-400 missile system from Russia, pointing to the negative impact of the strict U.S. export regulations.
On Tuesday, she noted that the U.S. always wanted its allies to have equipment interoperable with the U.S. and NATO systems.
“Sometimes it’s the United States that’s part of the problem,” she said during an event at Atlantic Council.
“We’ve got some of our allies that are trying to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles, for example, or remotely piloted aircraft. We won’t sell them ours because of export control and so we force them into a situation where they want to buy unmanned aircraft or even intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that are built by China,” The Hill quoted her as saying.
The U.S. military and NATO previously expressed concerns over technical matters with the deployment of S-400 system in Turkey. But, according to Wilson, there is an additional problem that poses risk to U.S. F-35 fighter jets if Turkey acquires the S-400s.
The dispute over Ankara’s purchase of a Russian system casts doubts over the sale of the fighter jet to Turkey.
Wilson emphasized that S-400s “present some operational problems … particularly as it relates to the location of advanced aircraft in Turkey” like the F-35.
Turkey already agreed to buy 116 F-35 Lightning II jets as part of multinational Joint Strike Fighter program.
“We would not want to have that aircraft close to the S-400 and so those discussions are going on with Turkey,” Wilson said.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a congressional hearing that final decision has not been made over the delivery of F-35s to Turkey.
A group of bipartisan senators introduced a bill to block the sale of F-35s in response to the ongoing imprisonment of the U.S. citizens, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, in Turkey and Ankara’s S-400 purchase.