Biden's nominee pledges to 'eliminate' Turkey from F-35 program

U.S. President Joe Biden’s Air Force secretary nominee pledged to halt the manufacturing of F-35 components in Turkey, which continues to be one of the stumbling blocks in bilateral ties between the two countries.

“Under the current situation with Turkey, I think we should not be making F-35 parts in Turkey,” Frank Kendall told the Senate Committee on Armed Services Tuesday.

In response to a question about if he would do everything to ensure that the manufacturing of the aforementioned components was halted in a timely manner, Kendall said, “Yes, I will.”

Last year, U.S. defense officials had said Turkey would continue manufacturing components for F-35 fighter jets through 2022.

Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 Lightning II jet program in 2019, arguing that S-400 air missile systems acquired by Turkey could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the Lockheed Martin F-35 jets and is incompatible with NATO systems. Turkey, however, insists that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

The F-35 is an international program, with the aircraft itself being produced by multiple countries, including Turkey.

Despite Turkey’s assertions that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems, the U.S. has insisted that the Russian system is not compatible with weapons serving as part of NATO’s air-and-missile defense system.

A U.S. congressional watchdog warned in May 2020 that the U.S. decision to expel Turkey from the F-35 program is likely to compound its already beleaguered supply chain issues from a production increase. The $398 billion F-35 program has faced many problems since then, including engine shortages.

A report revealed that the Air Combat Command (ACC) had to cut eight air shows with the F-35 jet from their lineup in 2021 in order to save enough engines to use for deployments and training.