The US government has ordered the termination of Ankara's participation in the F-35 jet programme if the Turkish government doesn't back down from its S-400 missile deal with Moscow, in its most severe warning to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's administration yet.
Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan in a letter to his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Thursday said that all Turkish pilots in the programme must leave the US by July 31 and training for new pilots will be suspended, Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday.
The timetable would allow pilots currently training on the F-35 to complete their trainings and for other pilots to be reassigned to other posts, Shanahan said.
Washington has already suspended deliveries of parts and services related to Turkey's receipt of the multi-million dollar jets. "You still have the option to change course on the S-400," Shanahan said in the letter.
Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defence system from the US with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase Russia's system, the news agency said.
US officials advised Turkey to buy the US Patriot missile system rather than the S-400 system from Moscow, arguing it would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge.
But Turkey has emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO operability and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Erdogan had earlier said that the US had yet to give Turkey an "offer as good as the S-400s".
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