The United States should stop manufacturing parts for the F-35 fighter jet in Turkey, the Air Force secretary nominee said Tuesday.
“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 during his confirmation hearing.
Asked if he would do all that was possible to ensure that the production of these parts was halted as “soon as possible,” Kendall said: “Yes, I will.”
Ties between Washington and Ankara have soured after Turkey pushed ahead, despite warnings from the US and NATO, with the purchase of Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
Concerns were raised that such a system could be used to collect data on the US F-35 fighter jet, and NATO allies said the Russian weapons were incompatible with the organization.
But Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ignored all advice and concerns from the West and received the system from Moscow.
The Trump administration, which was in power at the time, announced the expulsion of Turkey from the F-35 production program along with the sanctions and bans on military export licenses.
Under President Joe Biden, the relationship with Turkey does not seem to be improving. Biden became the first US president to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, drawing the ire of Erdogan and other hard-line Turkish officials.
Holding Turkey accountable is one of the few areas that has garnered bipartisan support in Washington.
Biden is slated to meet his Turkish counterpart for the first time next month, on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels.
Separately, Kendall singled out China and Russia as being US “adversaries.” He warned both countries that they should “never doubt the United States.”