Ankara’s Claims, U.S. Can Make F-35 Without Turkish Parts: Sources
March 28, 2019
United States can still proceed with the trillion-dollar F-35 fighter jet
program without Turkish components, U.S. sources said, rebuffing arguments by
Ankara that excluding the NATO ally would be too complicated.
is exploring whether it can remove Turkey from production of the stealth fighter
jet, angered by Ankara's refusal to back down from its planned purchase of a
Russian-made defense missile system.
last week reported that the United States could soon freeze preparations for
delivering F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. While no decision has been made,
excluding Turkey from the F-35 program, in which it has been a long-time
partner, would be a massive blow to already strained ties between Washington and
President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said Ankara remained committed to buy a
Russian air defense system that the United States says would compromise the
security of F-35 aircraft, which is built by Lockheed Martin Corp.
United States and other NATO allies who own F-35 fighter jets fear the radar on
the Russian S-400 missile system will learn how to spot and track the F-35,
making it less able to evade Russian weapons in the future.
United States has offered Turkey the more expensive Patriot anti-missile system
at a discount that expires at the end of March, but on condition that Ankara
drop its plans to buy the S-400.
far Ankara has not shown any willingness to reverse the S-400 purchase, forcing
the United States to explore a future for the F-35 program without Turkey, which
makes parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays.
U.S. sources familiar with the F-35's intricate worldwide production process and
U.S. thinking on the issue say Turkey can be replaced. Officials with the
Pentagon and the Turkish embassy declined to comment.
are about 800 parts that Turkey makes for the F-35, and of them, very few are
sole source," said a person with direct knowledge of the U.S. position,
explaining that single source parts from Turkey can be replaced by contractors
who had previously bid to make them.
is not too big to fail," the person said.
has long said it plays a key role in the F-35 program and that excluding it
would not be easy. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in December
that the U.S. cannot unilaterally cancel Turkey's participation.
MAJOR DELAYS IF TURKEY DROPPED
several U.S. sources said the impact would not be drastic. Replacing or finding
substitutes for the Turkish components would slow production for a three-month
period at the Lockheed Martin facility that builds the jets, one of the sources
components of the F-35 made in Turkey can be easily replaced. For example, the
center fuselage produced in Ankara could be made by Northrop Grumman Corp ,
which already makes them in California.
declined to comment.
Mevlutoglu, a Turkey-based defense industry consultant, said removal of Turkey
from the program would not cause major issues for F-35 production process.
"Removal of Turkey from the supply chain will definitely create some delays
in the production and delivery process ... I personally believe that it will not
create drastic delays and cost overruns," he said.
the mean time, more Turkish pilots are set to begin training at U.S. air force
bases, joining pilots already there, while Ankara still hopes to take delivery
of two aircraft in November.
has said it plans to buy a total of 100 aircraft over the years.
U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday he wants Turkey to
remain in the F-35 fighter jet program, but added that Ankara needed to buy the
Patriot missile defense system.