Rate of production of F-35 fighters will be slowed down if the United States (US) drops its NATO-ally Turkey from the F-35 programme, Vice Admiral Mathias Winter told Congress Thursday.
“The evaluation of stopping Turkey would be between 50- and 75-airplane impact over a two-year period,” Winter said.
“If Turkey is removed, the program would face an immediate blow to the production rate for new planes and place fresh stress on an already strained supply chain,” the plane’s program manager was quoted as saying by Breaking Defense.
A decision to drop Turkey from the F-35 program would have broad repercussions, since Ankara helps manufacture 6-7 percent of parts for the aircraft, including components of the landing gear, cockpit displays and aircraft engines.
“We would see within 45 to 90 days an impact of the slowing down or stopping of those parts to the three production lines,” the Vice Admiral added.
The plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, said that contracts with Turkish companies to build F-35 parts had been expected to reach $12 billion, media reports said.
“The loss of those parts would be felt acutely as the approximately 3,000 suppliers working on the F-35 are struggling with the demand signal on them as more planes enter service and older ones are increasingly in need of repair,” according to Winter.
The program office is planning to move parts production and repair to depots across the country so industry can focus on making new parts of jets on the assembly line, but with 395 F-35s in service globally, that has proven a challenge.
“The US is seeing if it is possible to have another alternative to the F-35 engine overhaul depot somewhere in Europe, that is currently based in Eskisehir, Turkey,” a source was quoted as saying by Reuters in March.
On Monday, the Pentagon confirmed that it had stopped parts shipments to Turkey for the F-35 in retaliation for the impending purchase of the Russian S-400 on grounds that the US will be compromising the security of the F-35 aircraft if Turkey has both, the American jet and Russian S-400 missile defense system.
“Secondary sources of supply for Turkish-produced parts are now in development,” Acting Chief Pentagon Spokesman Charles Summers said in a statement.”
“I expect them (F-35s) to be delivered to Turkey,” Acting US Secretary Patrick Shanahan said this week.
First two Turkish F-35s were delivered to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona Wednesday for conducting the training of pilots. Another F-35 will be delivered Friday, officials confirmed Thursday.
“The training will continue at Luke Air Force Base,” Charles Summers said.
The US tried persuading Ankara to purchase Raytheon’s Patriot Systems.
“The S-400 contract with Russia is a done deal. It cannot be cancelled,” according to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“Turkey has proposed to the US that they form a working group to determine that Russian S-400 missile defense systems do not pose a threat to US or NATO military equipment,” Cavusoglu told Reuters Wednesday.