Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett visited Airmen at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Feb. 15 amid continuing tensions over Turkey’s ouster from the F-35 program and a December threat by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to shutter the base over political censure from Washington.
While her visit was Airman-focused, and included meetings with members of the 39th Air Base Wing and resilience-related conversations with its Airmen, Barrett stressed the urgency of USAF’s continued operations in the country.
“Our presence in Turkey is the bedrock of our ability to assure our partnership, respond to threats as required, and ensures support to global operations for U.S., coalition, and NATO allies,” Barrett said in a release.
The July decision to kick Turkey out of the Joint Strike Fighter program came after the country bought and fielded the Russian S-400 Triumf air defense system, which U.S. leaders feared could tip-off Russia to a dangerous amount of information about the Lockheed Martin-built stealth fighter, Air Force Magazine previously reported.
The combination of Turkey’s pursuit of the S-400 and its incursion into Syria provoked U.S. lawmakers into pursuing sanctions against it later in the year, Reuters reported.