Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday at a defence industry fair that a multinational project on the development of the F-35 Lightning II would collapse without Turkey taking part in it.
“When we felt the need for missile defense systems, we turned to the allies, but did not receive the necessary response. Therefore, we reached an agreement with Russia on the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. Now [the allies] are trying to exclude us from the F-35 project. Without Turkey, this project will suffer great damage,” Erdogan said at the opening of the international defence industry exhibition IDEF-2019 in Istanbul.
At the same time, according Deputy Chief of Russia’s Rosoboronexport Sergei Ladygin, Moscow and Ankara are in talks over a possible creation of Turkey’s own long-range air defence systems.
“We are holding consultations on creating a new national long-range air defense system in Turkey’s interests,” the official said.
Russia Would be Turkey’s ‘First Best Choice’ if US Ousts Ankara From F-35 Project Amid S-400 Row – Report
The statements come amid a row between Washington and Ankara over the latter’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defence systems.
Washington has repeatedly voiced concerns that if Turkey acquires both S-400s and F-35s, it will jeopardise US or NATO military equipment, since it would allegedly provide Russian experts with key insights into sensitive information related to the warplane’s technology.
Ankara, for its part, has maintained that the S-400s were not connected to the security of NATO, the US or the F-35 in any way. Despite Ankara’s explanation on the issue, Washington has decided to stop deliveries of F-35 fighter jet parts to Turkey.
READ MORE: Turkey Insists It Will Remain Part of F-35 Programme Despite US Threats
Russia and Turkey sealed the $2.5 billion S-400 deal in December 2017, having signed a loan agreement for the shipment of a total of four batteries. The first delivery is scheduled for July 2019, according to Turkish authorities.