US officials announced on Monday that they have halted their training program of Turkish pilots on F-35 fighters over Turkey’s planned purchase of Russian S-400 air defense missiles. Washington says the S-400 missiles are a threat to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighters and that Turkey cannot have both.
The Turkish pilots have been training at the Luke Air Force base in Arizona. Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, said, "The department is aware that the Turkish pilots at Luke AFB are not flying, without a change in Turkish policy, we will continue to work closely with our Turkish ally on winding down their participation in the F-35 program."
The move came just days after acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, told his Turkish counterpart that the pilots could stay in the US until the end of July, allowing for Turkey to rethink its plans. Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there is no plan to step back from the deal with Russia, "There is an agreement. We have determination. It is out of the question to take a step back from it."
On Tuesday, the Kremlin said they will be delivering the S-400 missiles to Turkey in July. The US has made it clear, they want Turkey to buy Patriot missiles from them and have threatened Turkey with economic sanctions if they go through with the deal.
Dave DeCamp is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US Foreign policy and wars. He is on Twitter at @decampdave.