The F-35 Lightning II Program has found new sources for 1,005 parts previously produced by Turkish suppliers since last July when Ankara was kicked out of the project over S-400 row.
“The July 2019 suspension of Turkey from the F-35 program—due to security concerns after its acquisition of Russian defense equipment—is likely to compound production risks. The F-35 program office identified that Turkish companies supplied 1,005 parts for the F-35 airframe and engine and some of these parts have been provided by only one supplier. As of December 2019, the program identified new suppliers for all of these parts, but it still needs to bring roughly 15 parts currently produced in Turkey up to the current production rate," Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a document published today.
GAO noted that the F-35 supply chain had been hit even before Turkey's removal, with some of the manufacturers “struggling” to meet production demand. The number of parts shortages per month climbed from 875 in July 2018 to more than 8,000 in July 2019.
The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment directed that the F-35 program establish alternative sources and to stop placing orders from Turkish suppliers after March 2020.
According to an official with that office, Turkish suppliers will provide parts through the end of lot 14 deliveries (scheduled to take place through 2022), in part, to avoid disruptions to aircraft deliveries and additional cost growth from standing up new suppliers.
GAO cautioned that the program faces some risk in receiving parts for Lots 12-14, after which it could be amplified following switch to alternate sources.
According to program officials, some of these new parts suppliers will not be producing at the rate required until next year, as roughly 10% are new to the F-35 program.
Airframe contractor representatives stated it would take over a year to stand up these new suppliers, with lead times dependent on several factors, such as part complexity, quantity, and the supplier’s production maturity. In addition, these new suppliers are required to go through qualification and testing to ensure the design integrity for their parts.
“The long-standing challenges with receiving parts on time and efforts underway to replace Turkish suppliers of parts for the F-35 compound these production challenges and may raise additional risks,” GAO remarked.
The program reportedly intends to utilize newly-sourced F-35 components for aircraft delivered under lots 13 and 14 contracts.
An anonymous F-35 program official said it is not clear how prices from alternative suppliers would compare to those from Turkey, "but the official noted that alternative sources could be more costly."
Turkey’s contribution in the F-35 program:
The biggest Turkish supplier for the F-35 jet is Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). The firm currently supplies production hardware that goes into every F-35 production aircraft. In conjunction with Northrup Grumman, TAI manufactures and assembles the center fuselages, produces composite skins and weapon bay doors, and manufactures fiber placement composite air inlet ducts. TAI is manufacturing 45% of the F-35’s Air-to-Ground Pylons and adapters.
Other major Turkish suppliers include:
• Alp Aviation: manufactures F-35 production airframe structure and assemblies, production landing gear components and over 100 F135 production engine parts to include titanium integrated blade rotors
• Ayesas: currently is the sole source supplier for two major F-35 components – missile remote interface unit and the panoramic cockpit display
• Fokker Elmo: manufactures 40% of the F-35 Electrical Wiring & Interconnection System (EWIS) and will also deliver and support TAI with all center section wiring systems. Fokker Elmo is also developing the EWIS for the F135 engine
• Havelsan: supports F-35 training systems
• Kale Aerospace: in conjunction with TAI, they manufacture and produce F-35 airframe structures and assemblies; supports Heroux Devtek as the sole source supplier for all three variants landing gear up lock assemblies; established a joint venture with Pratt & Whitney to build hardware for the F135 engine
• ROKETSAN and Tubitak-SAGE: production of the advanced precision-guided Stand-off Missile (SOM-J)