WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen announced on Thursday that he successfully secured language as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations Act that would expressly prohibit spending Department of Defense funds to transfer, or to facilitate the transfer of, F-35 aircraft to Turkey until the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, certifies to the appropriate Congressional committees that Turkey is not purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia and will not accept the delivery of such system.
The amendment, which was included as part of the manager’s package, passed with strong bipartisan support in Committee. It covers not only the F-35, but any defense articles or related services – that includes the training of pilots in Turkey, the transfer of F-35 equipment to Turkey, and the Defense Department personnel responsible for fueling the aircraft. Senior defense officials have said that if Turkey operates both the F-35 and the S-400, it could compromise the F-35’s security, including the aircraft’s stealth capabilities, and represent a strategic threat to the United States and our allies.
This builds on Senator Van Hollen’s language in the Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act that would apply the same prohibition on State Department funding. He raised the issue directly with Secretary Pompeo yesterday, who said that the Administration has spoken at length with the Turkish government about the issue in recent days but refused to commit to withholding the F-35 if Turkey acquires the S-400.
Senator Van Hollen said, “We have been clear – we do not have an issue with the transfer of F-35 advanced aircraft to Turkey. Our problem is with the fact that President Erdogan continues to insist that they will also proceed with the acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defense system. This is unacceptable, and these two amendments send that clear signal. Turkey is a NATO ally – they should not be doing anything that categorically puts their fellow allies at risk.”
The text of the F-35 amendment is below:
None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be made available to transfer, or to facilitate the transfer of, F–35 aircraft to Turkey, including any defense articles or services related to such aircraft, until the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the Government of Turkey is not purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia and will not accept the delivery of such system.