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Jim Mattis Discourages Congress from Barring F-35 Deal

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, welcomes Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık to the Pentagon on April 13, 2017.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is urging Congress never to bar Turkey from buying the Lockheed Martin F-35, arguing that for this would trigger a worldwide “supply chain disruption” resulting in delays and better costs for the $100 million aircraft.

“At this time around, I oppose eliminating Turkey from the F-35 program,” Mattis said inside a letter to lawmakers negotiating in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. Turkey, a NATO ally who’s invested $1.25 billion in the program since 2002, promises to buy 100 aircraft.

“If the Turkish supply chain was disrupted today, it could result in an aircraft production break, delaying delivery of 50-75 F-35s, and would take approximately 18-24 months to re-source parts and recover.”

Pentagon plans require getting a total of 2,456 F-35s. Allies are hoped for to buy countless additional F-35s, and eight nations, including Japan, South Korea, Denmark and Norway, are cost-sharing partners inside the program while using U.S.

The Senate’s defense policy and appropriations bills include language to delay sales from the jet to Turkey over its offers to find the Russian S-400 air defense system and it is detainment of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

Mattis, in the July 7 letter, assured lawmakers the Trump administration was pressing Turkey on both issues and acknowledged Congress’s concerns with Turkey’s “authoritarian drift as well as impact on human rights along with the rule of law.”

NATO officials have warned of “necessary consequences” for Turkey should it pick the S-400, which can’t be made interoperable with NATO and U.S. assets deployed in Turkish territory.

Turkish officials have threatened reprisals in the event the U.S. cuts them back through the F-35 and still have defended current debts buy the Russian S-400 missile defense system because second-best option only because NATO allies declined to trade Western hardware.

A copy of Mattis’s letter, previously reported by Bloomberg, was presented to us on Monday.

U.S. Senators Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the chairman and ranking member from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have introduced bipartisan legislation to restrict loans from international banking institutions to Turkey before Turkish government ends what they call the “unjust” detention of U.S. citizens. They are anticipated to ponder over it in committee now.

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