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WASHINGTON — A messy multibillion-dollar deal between Turkey and the United States took another turn over the weekend as Moscow announced it was in the process of delivering a much-anticipated missile system to Ankara.
The delivery of the Russian-made S-400, a mobile surface-to-air missile system, is said to pose a risk to the NATO alliance as well as the F-35, America's most expensive weapons platform.
Turkey, a NATO partner, faces several consequences for accepting the Kremlin's missile system, including economic sanctions and removal from the supply chain for the F-35.
"We underscore that Turkey will face very real and negative consequences if it completes its S-400 delivery," a U.S. State Department official told CNBC. "NATO countries need to procure military equipment that is interoperable with NATO systems. A Russian system would not meet that standard." The official, who declined to be named, said that NATO allies and the U.S. have offered Turkey other missile platforms.
The Pentagon and White House did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.
In 2017, Ankara brokered a deal reportedly worth $2.5 billion with the Kremlin for the S-400 despite warnings from the U.S. that buying the system would come with political and economic consequences.
The S-400, the successor to the S-200 and S-300 missile systems, made its debut in 2007. Compared with U.S. systems, the Russian-made S-400 is believed to be capable of engaging a wider array of targets, at longer ranges and against multiple threats simultaneously.
In September, CNBC learned that Turkey had begun construction on a site for the S-400 system. An intelligence assessment included satellite imagery of a concrete launch facility as well as bunkers. The new construction fit the pattern for Russia's S-400 system.
In multiple efforts to deter Turkey from buying the S-400, the State Department offered in 2013 and 2017 to sell the country Raytheon's Patriot missile system. Ankara passed on the Patriot both times because the U.S. declined to provide a transfer of the system's sensitive missile technology.
All the while, Turkey became a financial and manufacturing partner for Lockheed Martin's F-35 jet, the world's most advanced fighter.
In April, CNBC reported that Lockheed Martin and Raytheon were preparing to make massive adjustments to their intricate production schedules amid contentious negotiations with Turkey.
If Turkey went through with the Russian deal, Lockheed Martin would have to rework its supply chain on components for the F-35 fighter jet, while also making changes to its production schedule. Yet if Turkey abandoned its deal with Russia, Raytheon would reorganize the Patriot missile defense system production schedule to guarantee that Turkey could receive the missile system within a faster time frame.
Last month, the Pentagon announced it would begin "unwinding" Ankara's participation in the F-35 program on the heels of reports that Turkey sent personnel to Russia for training on the S-400 system.
"As we have very clearly communicated at all levels, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400 system. Thus we need to begin unwinding Turkey's participation in the F-35 program," Ellen Lord, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters last month at the Pentagon.
She also added that the U.S. will suspend ongoing F-35 training for Turkish pilots, order the departure of Turkish personnel associated with the F-35 program from the country, withdraw invitations to allow Turkey to participate in the annual CEO F-35 roundtable, and discontinue F-35 material deliveries and activities.
Meanwhile, nearly 13 countries have expressed interest in buying Russia's S-400, a move that could trigger potential U.S. sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed in August 2017. In September, the U.S. slapped sanctions on China for buying fighter jets and missiles from Russia. However, the U.S. could grant sanction waivers.
China, India and Turkey have already signed purchase agreements with the Kremlin. China, which is embroiled in a trade battle with the U.S., is in the middle of receiving its final shipment of the S-400 system. India signed a deal with Moscow for the S-400 in October. Turkey is slated to receive its S-400 as early as this week and is expected to have the system ready for use by 2020.