Major General Reha Ufuk Er makes a speech as Turkey takes delivery of its first F-35 fighter jet with a ceremony in Texas. Photo: Anadolu Agency via AFP

Washington’s top military commander in Europe told lawmakers this week that the US should cancel the delivery of F-35 aircraft to Turkey if they buy Russian missiles, suggesting in his comments that Ankara would be risking more than just the stealth fighter jets.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t… follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems, particularly air-defense systems. With one of our, what I would say is probably one of our, most advanced technological capabilities,” General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of US European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“If they accept the S-400 and to establish it in Turkey, there is first of all the issue of that it’s not interoperable with NATO’s systems, nor is it interoperable inside of our air-missile defense system,” he added.

When asked about Turkey’s role in the production of key F-35 components, Scaparrotti suggested that it was dispensable, and stressed that the US would reconsider the sale of other weapons systems to Turkey.

“I would just underscore the fact that this is a… huge decision for Turkey,” he said regarding the F-35, adding: “But also to FMS (foreign military sales) and other systems we sell to Turkey as well. So I would hope they would reconsider this one decision on S-400 – one system – but potentially forfeit many of the other systems and… one of the most important systems that we can provide.”

(Comments on Turkey and F-35s come at the 58:30 mark in the video below)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was defiant in response, saying in a television interview that Turkey would not reconsider the decision to buy the Russian missile system, even if it meant giving up US weapons.

“If the US is to take weapons out of Syria, they can, as they are their own property. However, if they won’t, give them to Turkey. If it is needed, we can sit at the negotiating table and buy them. They must not give these weapons to the terrorists,” Erdogan said, referring to Kurdish allies of the US, as quoted by Hurriyet Daily.

“We concluded the S-400 issue, signed a deal with the Russians and will start co-production,” he said. “Later, we may work with S-500s,” he added.

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