U.S. should not sell F-35 jets to Turkey unless it drops Russian system: U.S. general

FILE PHOTO: NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, addresses a news conference at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. general in Europe said on Tuesday that he would recommend that the United States should not sell Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 jets to NATO ally Turkey if Ankara does not drop plans to buy S-400 surface-to-air missile defense systems from Russia.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said it is committed to buying the Russian system, despite warnings from the U.S.-led alliance that the S-400s cannot be integrated into the NATO air defense system.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems, particularly air defense systems, with what I would say is probably one of most advanced technological capabilities,” U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of U.S. forces in Europe, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Scaparrotti is also the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

U.S. officials have said that if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase, Washington will withdraw its offer to sell a $3.5 billion Raytheon Co Patriot missile package.

Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system was a done deal.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Grant McCool