March 28, 2019

Van Hollen, Lankford, Shaheen, Tillis Introduce Bill to Prohibit Transfer of F-35 Aircraft to Turkey

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) along with Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced a bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey until our government certifies that Turkey will not accept delivery of Russia’s S-400 air defense system. Under the US-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program, Turkey is expected to accept delivery of the F-35 as early as next fall.

“As a member of NATO, Turkey must not undermine the security of the United States and our allies. Operating the Russian S-400 missile defense system alongside the F-35 aircraft would do exactly that, and we cannot allow that to happen. This bipartisan legislation would draw a hard line in the sand and protect vital national security interests, and the Senate should consider it without delay,” said Van Hollen, who has authored similar provisions on both the Defense and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bills.

“Turkey is an important NATO ally and willing partner in addressing a number of US national security priorities,” said Lankford. “It’s concerning that Turkey would seek close defense cooperation with Russia, whose authoritarian ruler seeks to undermine NATO and US interests at every turn. That’s why I am glad to partner with Senators Shaheen, Van Hollen, and Tillis to introduce this bipartisan bill that sends a clear message to the Turkish government that it cannot have sensitive, state-of-the-art American military technology and Russian military technology.”

“Make no mistake – the Kremlin is an adversary of the United States and many of our NATO allies. The prospect of Russia having access to U.S. aircraft and technology in a NATO country, Turkey, is a serious national and global security risk,” said Shaheen. “Turkey is a critical ally, but until President Erdogan forgoes his perplexing efforts to acquire the S-400 air defense system, not a single F-35 aircraft should be delivered to Turkey. This bill makes it clear that NATO’s integrity, interoperability and security is a top foreign policy concern across all branches of the U.S. government. As such, this bipartisan bill will help ensure the safety and security of the United States and our transatlantic community.”

“Turkey is an important NATO partner and strategic ally, and I was greatly encouraged by Turkey’s release of Pastor Andrew Brunson last year,” said Tillis. “However, I remain deeply concerned about their attempts to buy and install the S-400 air defense system from Russia, an adversary of NATO. I strongly urge Turkey to cease this deal immediately so we can deliver the F-35 as originally planned and continue to work towards advancing the common interests of our countries.”

Last year, Lankford, Shaheen, and Tillis introduced a similar bill to stop the transfer of fighter aircraft to Turkey their government committed a number human rights violations, including the unjust imprisonment of an American pastor Andrew Brunson. Pastor Brunson was released in October 2018 after being detained for two years. A version of the bill was included as an amendment in the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act directing the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove Turkey from participation in the F-35 program.

For a copy of the bill click here.