Jul 15 2018

Turkey’s S-400 system may accumulate information about F-35 jets - US general

Turkey’s plans to buy the Russian S-400 missile defence system would give a weapon used by “known foes” of NATO to accumulate information about F-35 fighter jets arriving in growing numbers in Europe, the top U.S. Air Force general in Europe said, Reuters reported on Sunday.

General Tod Wolters, also the NATO Allied Air Commander, told Reuters the issue was worrying, but he was working to maintain strong military ties with the NATO member for now.

“Anything that an S-400 can do that affords it the ability to better understand a capability like the F-35 is certainly not to the advantage of the coalition,” said Wolters.

In December 2017, Turkey and Russia signed a $2.5 billion agreement for the sale of the Russian S-400 air defence system to Turkey, despite Turkey’s NATO allies’ concerns about the purchase. 

Meanwhile, Turkey received the first of 100 F-35s on June 21 from defence conglomerate Lockheed Martin after a rollout ceremony that took place in Fort Worth in Texas. Norway, Britain and Italy will also have a total of 40 F-35s in Europe by the end of the year, with 24 more to be delivered next year and the Netherlands to receive two jets as well, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force, Reuters said. 

David Deptula, a retired Air Force general and industry consultant told Reuters that NATO would never integrate an S-400 system into its integrated air defence system because it would give the Russian-built system data about operating tactics and procedures that could be transferred to other users. An S-400 system may access key information about range of detection and other characteristics of the aircraft from an F-35 operating nearby. 

According to General Wolters, NATO is worried about “how much, for how long and how close” any F-35s would be operated near the S-400 systems, which at the moment remains uncertain. Wolters added that, despite the challenge posed by Turkey’s purchase of S-400s, the two allies try to maintain their relations by focusing on current security threats. 

“For right now, all the conversations surrounding that challenge have not hindered at all the strong relationship that we have with the Turkish air force and the great alliance that the two nations have together,” he said.