US President Donald Trump appears to be gearing up to make F-35 jet production solely an American endeavour by striking more names off the list of foreign suppliers.
“It’s a great jet, and we make parts for this jet all over the world. We make them in Turkey, we make them here, we’re going to make them there …. The problem is if we have a problem with a country, you can’t make the jet. We get parts from all over the place. It’s so crazy. We should make everything in the United States,” Trump said during an interview with Fox Business Network.
The “problem” Trump was talking about was Turkey’s ouster from the F-35 project after it bought Russian S-400 air defense systems for millions of dollars.
When asked whether it was possible, Trump said: “Yeah, we’re doing it because I’m changing all those policies. Look, we make F-35s — very important, the greatest jet in the world — where the main body of the jet is made in Turkey and then sent here.”
A recent report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted Turkish firms had been producing 1005 parts for the F-35’s airframe and engine. New suppliers have now been found but the F-35 production rate could be impacted until the firms buckle up to Turkey’s current rate. “New parts suppliers will not be producing at the rate required until next year, as roughly 10% are new to the F-35 program.”
“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 report stated.
In October 2019, the Pentagon placed a $34billion order with Lockheed Martin to produce the next three delivery groups, known as Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) lots 12, 13 and 14. The deal includes building 478 of these jets for the US military and its allies.
GAO cautioned that the program faces some risk in receiving Turkish parts for Lots 12-14, after which it could be amplified following switch to alternate sources.