US Congress, Israel oppose ‘game changer’ fighter jet deal with Turkey

Despite Congressional and Israeli opposition, the Pentagon is moving ahead with providing Turkey with F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. 

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Turkey will receive on Thursday the first of 100 of the most advanced jet fighters in the world that it has bought from the US, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.

The purchase was opposed by Israel and the US Congress.

“Although Turkey has long been a participant in the development of the F-35 program, the US Senate had sought to block Turkey from receiving the stealth warplanes through language in the National Defense Authorization Act amid a deterioration of the US-Turkey relationship,” CNN reported.

Israel, which has a strained relationship with Turkey despite officially being allies, has also reportedly expressed concerns about the sale of the fighter jets to Ankara.

Israel worries that Turkey may leak secret details of the planes to Moscow or they may be sold on to enemy nations, Hadashot TV reported.

Sources in Israel were also concerned because the sale of 100 planes to Turkey will give Ankara a numerical advantage. Israel is slated to receive only 50 of the F-35 jets with the option of purchasing another 25.

Israel received its first two F-35 fighter jets in late December 2016 and declared them operational a year later.

The fifth-generation fighter jet has been lauded as a “game-changer” by the Israeli military, not only for its offensive and stealth capabilities, but also for its ability to connect its systems with other aircraft and form an information-sharing network.

US officials are reportedly worried about its NATO ally’s desire to purchase Russia’s advanced S-400 anti-aircraft system, which is not compatible with NATO systems.

Congress is also concerned about the direction in which Turkey has been moving under authoritarian, pro-Islamic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkey has grown closer to both Russia and Iran, all of which have intervened militarily in Syria with at least some degree of coordination.

The three countries have also met numerous times, supposedly to formulate some kind of joint peace plan for the country. Erdoğan openly traded threats earlier this year with US President Donald Trump over the possibility of American troops coming under fire from Turkish forces in Syria’s Kurdish areas.

However, a US defense official told CNN that Secretary of Defense James Mattis does not want to block Turkey from receiving the stealth fighters and is trying to get the language removed from the bill’s final version.

Turkey is a partner country of the F-35 program, along with allies such as the UK, Italy, Canada and Australia, contributing toward the cost of development and producing some of its parts.