U.S. grounds Turkish F-35 pilots

US grounds Turkish F-35 pilots
U.S. grounds Turkish F-35 pilots.

The US Air Force grounded the Turkish pilots who train with the F-35 in the United States and stopped their access to the plane's confidential information. This restriction was implemented following the temporary expulsion of Turkey from the program.

The United States Department of Defense has officially set a deadline of July 31 to allow Turkey to cancel the agreement with Russia for the acquisition of the S-400 missile defense system before excluding the nation from the F-35 program. If at the end of the deadline, Ankara will not change its plans, all the Turkish Air Force personnel involved in the program will have to leave the United States.

However, the Commander of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base has already banned the two Turkish instructors and four students, deployed at Luke, from approaching the stealth jet and the room containing state secrets and classified materials. The Commander fears that Turkish pilots can take and share confidential information before the deadline.

The grounding was announced by the Pentagon as an "operational pause". If Turkey decides to cancel the acquisition of the S-400, the pilots could resume their training.

US officials say the S-400 poses a threat to the F-35 and that Turkey could provide Moscow with detailed information on US military secrets.

The decision to start "unwinding" Turkey from the F-35 program was partly motivated by the discovery that Turkey sent personnel to Russia to start training on the S-400, said Andrew Winternitz, Principal Director for Europe and NATO Policy.

Written by Matteo Sanzani