US Air Force halts Turkish F-35 pilot training amid Russian Federation dispute

Turkish F-35 pilots no longer flying at US base amid S-400 row

"If the source of the concerns is a technical worry stemming from the S-400s being located in Turkey, we have said repeatedly that we are ready to discuss this", Demir said. That would have allowed time for more training and for Turkey to rethink its plans.

Ismail Demir said in Ankara on Monday that Turkish officials were preparing a response to a letter by acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, which outlined how Turkey would be pulled out of the F-35 fighter jet program if it pressed on with the S-400 deal, Reuters said.

Turkey's deal with Russian Federation for the S-400 system is reportedly worth $2.5bn (£1.96bn) and Ankara has previously rejected U.S. offers to sell them the Patriot alternative in 2013 and 2017.

"The department is aware that the Turkish pilots at Luke AFB are not flying", Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters.

Turkey, one of the core partners in the F-35 program and a prospective buyer, has said the S-400s will not impact the jets and has proposed to Washington forming a joint working group to assess US concerns.

Turkey seemed to be moving ahead with the S-400 purchase, regardless of the USA warnings.

The safety concern is being explained as the same procedure used to temporarily ground United States military pilots if they are facing a "significant life event", such as a divorce or death in the family, that would be a distraction during flight operations, the official told CNN.

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Washington has threatened to remove Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program unless it drops the deal, and has set its own deadline of July 31.

If Turkey does receive the Russian defence system this summer, it is expected to be ready for use by 2020.

But strains in US-Turkish ties already extend beyond the F-35 to include conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of US consular staff in Turkey. Erdogan said last week it was "out of the question" for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow. Turkish officials have indicated that negotiations on the Patriot proposal are continuing, but have stressed that Ankara would not trade its S-400s for the US-made systems.

"The agreements reached between Russian Federation and Turkey are being fulfilled on time in the given context".

The comments came days after the head of Russian state conglomerate Rostec, Sergei Chemezov, said Moscow would start delivering the S-400s to Turkey in two months.

"The 33rd Fighter Wing is complying with the Secretary of Defense's memo of having all Turkish training completed by July 31st", said Lt. Savannah Stephens, chief of public affairs for Eglin's 33rd Fighter Wing.

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