Israel lobbies US to stop fighter jets sale to Turkey

27th Sep 2019

F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jet (Photo: Master Sgt Jeremy T Lock/US Air Force)

Nadine Osman

Israel worked behind the scenes to ensure that the US stopped the sale of its F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey ‘to preserve its military qualitative edge in the region’, according to Israeli media reports.

Israel in recent months lobbied Washington to drop Ankara from the F-35 programme after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went ahead with a purchase of a Russian-made missile defence system that would give Turkey advanced air capabilities.

Washington said the S-400 missile defence batteries would compromise the F-35 programme and aid Russian intelligence. Channel 12 reported that Israeli officials were similarly concerned that details of the aircraft’s advanced capabilities would leak to neighbouring countries.

In a major break with a long time ally, US President, Donald Trump, earlier this month announced that Ankara was being kicked out of the F-35 program for purchasing the Russian-made system.

The White House said the American fighter jet programme “cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.”

Turkey – which had ordered more than 100 of the F-35s for some $1.4 billion – dismissed claims the Russian system would be a danger to the American warplanes and urged Washington to reverse its decision. Israel has agreed to purchase 50 F-35 fighter jets from the US. So far, 16 aircrafts have been delivered, and the remaining planes are slated to arrive in batches of twos and threes until 2024.

Israel is only the second country after the US to receive the F-35 jets. In 2018, the Israeli Air Force revealed it had used the F-35 operationally – including at least once over Lebanon – making it the first military in the world to do so.

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