U.S. Senate Moves to Block Sale of F-35 Jets to Turkey

Senate passed a $716 billion defense policy bill on Monday, backing President Donald Trump's call for a bigger, stronger military, which includes an amendment prohibiting sales of the jets to Turkey

A Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35A jet flies during a training mission in Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in 2016.
Bloomberg

The U.S. Senate's decision to pass a bill prohibiting the sale of Lockheed Martin's F-35 jets to Turkey is unfortunate and against the spirit of strategic partnership, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Senate passed a $716 billion defense policy bill on Monday, backing President Donald Trump's call for a bigger, stronger military, which includes an amendment prohibiting sales of the jets to Turkey.

>>Can the U.S. risk Turkey flying the F-35?

Yildirim was also quoted by broadcaster Haberturk as saying that Turkey was not without alternatives and that the bill would not make Turkey vulnerable.

There have been bipartisan efforts in both the Senate and the lower house, the House of Representatives, to potentially stop the transfer of the advanced warplane to Turkey.

The National Defense Authorisation Act now needs to be reconciled with a bill from the lower house and could be approved by the end of the summer.

Both houses have slapped their own version of amendments to the act which target Turkey - one of the partner countries on the F-35 programme. The Senate version would prevent the transfer until the Pentagon devises a plan to remove Ankara from the programme.

Ankara was seeking to buy some 100 of the stealth jets. However, various legislators have cited a number of concerns with Turkey, including its plans to buy advanced Russian air defence systems, warming ties to Moscow and the arrest of US citizens and consulate staff.

A specific sale of small arms to the presidential guard of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already been blocked. His guards specifically angered figures in Washington after they attacked and injured protesters in the U.S. capital during an official visit.

There are national security concerns as well about turning over F-35s to Turkey.

"The Turkish government claims to have purchased a Russian air defense system designed to shoot these very planes down," New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen declared as she joined Tillis in the Senate chamber last week. "NATO partners need these F-35s to counter Russian activity. We would be handing this technology over to the Kremlin if we granted Turkey these planes, and Congress will not stand for it."