(Not sure if this is the right place for the question, but the roots of it are political.)

From what I've seen, Turkey's decision to buy the Russian S-400 anti-air system has jeopardized its relationship with its NATO allies, and earlier today the US went further and decided to stop training Turkish pilots on how to fly the F-35. I don't understand why. I can see why Turkey choosing to buy a rival's weapons are an embarrassment to NATO, but I don't see why we have quotes like this (from the source):

Kathryn Wheelbarger, one of the Pentagon’s most senior policy officials, said last week that Turkey’s completion of the transaction with Russia would be "devastating," dealing heavy blows to the F-35 programme and to Turkish interoperability within the NATO alliance.

"The S-400 is a Russian system designed to shoot down an aircraft like the F-35," said Wheelbarger, an acting assistant secretary of defense. "And it is inconceivable to imagine Russia not taking advantage of that (intelligence) collection opportunity."

  • Why would Turkey possessing the S-400 deal a heavy blow to the F-35 programme? If anything, it would be a security risk for Russia, since now a NATO country will have a detailed idea of how the S-400 works, how dangerous it is, what its limitations are, and so on.
  • Even if we assume that Turkey starts testing how effective the S-400 is at shooting down the F-35, it still doesn't explain how Russia is going to get hold of that intelligence.
  • Even if Russia can get hold of that intelligence, it doesn't explain why refusing to train Turkish pilots on how to fly the F-35 does anything (unless this is completely a political tool to pressure Turkey). In other words, does Turkey possessing the S-400 but not the pilots to fly the F-35 accomplish anything?

If we leave aside the political embarrassment, why would Turkey possessing the S-400 be a problem for NATO?

  • 1
    FYI there have been a number of S-400 related questions in recent months. There are no dups insofar as I can tell from a cursory scan, but you might find some of the answers to them interesting. – Denis de Bernardy Jun 7 at 4:39
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    In the current climate where the US is very trade (war) oriented, part of any US motivation could also simply be that someone is buying foreign when they could/should be buying from the US... but this is just my rough superficial impression, so I leave it as a comment in case someone wants to pick it up to flesh out a full answer. – Frank Hopkins Jun 7 at 9:28

If Turkey has both the S-400 air defence system and the F-35, it will be able to test the two together. The US is worried that the opportunity to gather extensive data on detecting the F-35 with the S-400 system will allow Russia to improve its ability to detect and track that aircraft, and potentially other US aircraft too.

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    I'm accepting this since although it doesn't answer the second bullet point, the linked article does. Thanks for answer! – Allure Jun 10 at 7:33
  • It's still imperative to include critical parts into the answer itself -- because that information would be lost and the answer rendered useless <s>if</s> when the link rots. – ivan_pozdeev Sep 22 at 17:16

A modern weapon system consists of hardware, software, organization, and training. A new SAM would have to be integrated into the NATO-wide air defense system. If Turkey were to work with the Russians to integrate S-400 into the Turkish part of the NATO system, they would have to explain to the Russians how the NATO air defense works.

In theory, they could discuss SAMs without revealing any fighter secrets.

In practice, if they spill secrets in one area, they are no longer considered trustworthy in other areas.

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    Doesn't it work the other way around, though? Isn't Russia also exposing their military secrets to Turkey? – Obie 2.0 Jun 7 at 7:13
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    @Obie probably, however, as Russia seems to be OK with exporting the S-400 system to the NATO member Turkey, it seems that they have either have a sanitized export-version, or they consider the S-400 system not that critical. – Dohn Joe Jun 7 at 8:22
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    @Obie2.0 I'm sure that Turkey won't get the source code for the software part of the S-400. Turkey will require constant maintenance from Russia for the S-400 which will allow Russia to get diagnostic data etc. – Martin Schröder Jun 8 at 10:31
  • +1 This is the official justification I heard at the time. – Grault Jun 14 at 14:32

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