Against the backdrop of the Pentagon budget cuts, recouping several hundred million dollars by selling the new generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to allies might at first glance make sense. Certainly, there will be no shortage of trustworthy customers, not only in Western Europe but also in Israel and Japan. Yesterday, Turkey announced that it plans to purchase the plane as well. While Turkey is part of the consortium which constructed the plane, the contract to have Turkey contribute to the fuselage was more a diplomatic bone to throw than a necessity. Turkey, however, has had no role in the stealth aspect of the plane nor the cutting edge software and electronics which make the F-35 possible.
Since that original deal was struck, the Turkish intelligence service has been taken over by a pro-Iranian functionary; the Turkish military which the Pentagon saw as a strategic asset has become a shadow of its former self; the Turkish Air Force has conducted war games with China; and the Turkish government has threatened military action against both Cyprus and Israel. To sell Turkey technology upon which the U.S. national defense will depend for a generation to come makes about as much strategic sense as selling Pakistan the home addresses of CIA operatives, or selling blueprints for nuclear warheads.
Make no mistake: Put the F-35 in a room with Chinese and Iranian scientists for a week, and they will be able to reverse engineer it, even if the White House convinces itself that certain software keys and codes are unbreakable. If the Obama administration is intent on undercutting America’s strategic standing, it behooves Congress to step up to the plate to just say no.