WASHINGTON — Key House lawmakers announced their bill Friday to bar the sale of the F-35 warplane to Turkey if Ankara buys the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
The bipartisan trio of senior House Armed Services Committee members — Reps. Mike Turner, R-Ohio; John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Paul Cook, R-Calif., sponsored the bill, a companion to a bipartisan bill from Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and others. Both bills are called the “Protecting NATO Skies Act of 2019.”
“Operating the S-400 alongside the F-35 would compromise the aircraft and its sensitive technology, impact interoperability among NATO allies, and most importantly pose serious risk to our shared defense and security," Garamendi said in a statement. "This bill sends a strong and important message to Turkey — proceeding with the S-400 is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The House bill came days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly discussed with U.S. President Donald Trump a Turkish proposal to establish a joint committee over Turkey’s plans to purchase the S-400.
A statement from Erdogan’s office says the two leaders held a telephone conversation on Monday during which they also discussed the fight against terrorism and efforts to increase trade.
Turkey’s decision to purchase the advanced Russian system has deepened a rift between the NATO allies.
The U.S. has long been in talks for Turkey to buy the U.S.-made Patriot air defense system as an alternative to the S-400. In March, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Turner “we need Turkey to buy the Patriot.”
After months of warnings, the U.S., in April, stopped delivery of F-35 parts to Turkey in retaliation for Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the S-400. The aircraft's delivery was planned for this summer, but the move was the first step toward actually ending the sale.
U.S. officials say the Russian defense system could pose a threat to the F-35 program and have warned of consequences if the purchase is finalized.
Turkey denies that the system is a threat and has proposed a joint committee to review security risks.
Turkey is set to buy 100 F-35As over the entirety of the F-35 program and Turkish companies are also part of the program’s industrial base and play a role in sustainment.
However, after months of warnings, Washington stopped delivery of F-35 fighter jet parts to Turkey last month in retaliation for Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of a Russian surface-to-air missile system.
Last month, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I., penned a New York Times op-ed with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and ranking member Bob Menendez, D-N.J., threatening legislation that would bar Turkey from both the F-35 and S-400.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.