Is F-35 Without Turkey Even Possible?
President Erdogan: “An F-35 project that excludes Turkey is destined for failure.”
But, is it really possible for the F-35 project to go on without Turkey?
Hailed as the warplane of the future, the production phase of the F-35 has been going on for a long time. But the S-400 standoff between Turkey and the U.S. affects the course of the trillion-dollar project immensely.
The countries participating in the project are the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Norway, Netherlands, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and Belgium.
Lockheed Martin, the American company producing the F-35 fighter jets, delivered more than 360 aircraft to the USA and the allied countries.
Why does Turkey hold a key position?
8 Turkish companies take part in the F-35 project. Here are these companies and their respective duties:
Alp Aviation: It has been participating in the program since 2004. It manufactures many different parts for the aircraft, including the airframe structure and assemblies, components for the landing gears, titanium integrated blade rotors, and over 100 separate engine parts.
AYESAS: It supplies two major components for the F-35. Turkey has an irreplaceable position in the project, as AYESAS is the sole manufacturer of the missile remote interface unit and the panoramic cockpit display, two fundamental parts of the F-35.
Fokker Elmo: The Dutch company operates in the Turkish city of Izmir. It manufactures 40% of the Electrical Wiring & Interconnection System (EWIS) for the F-35. It also supports TAI with all center section wiring systems.
HAVELSAN: It has been supporting the F-35 training systems since 2005.
Kale Aerospace: The company has been participating in the project since 2005. It manufactures F-35 airframe structures and assemblies in conjunction with Turkish Aerospace Industries. Additionally, it is the sole supplier for landing gear up lock assemblies. In a joint venture with the American company Pratt & Whitney, it also manufactures production hardware for the F135 engine in Izmir.
ROKETSAN and TUBITAKSAGE: These companies manage the development, integration, and production of the advanced precision-guided Stand-off Missile (SOM-J) for the F-35.
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI): The company provides some of the most complex production hardware for the F-35. It manufactures the center fuselages, produces composite skins, weapon bay doors, and fiber placement composite air inlet ducts in conjunction with the American company Northrup Grumman.
In conclusion, Turkish companies manufacture 800 separate parts worth some $12 billion collectively. It should be made clear that Turkey is not simply a customer, but a partner for the F-35 project. The country not only plays a critical role in the production of the aircraft but also holds one of the European facilities for maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade (MRO&U).
According to a New York Times report, Turkey has invested more than $1.25 billion in the project so far. The Washington Times gives a far higher estimate of $8 billion, based on statements from Jed Babbin, a former United States Deputy Undersecretary of Defense who served during the first Bush administration.
Whatever the circumstances, removing Turkey from the F-35 program will have very serious implications for the project itself. Especially considering that the F-35 has a myriad of still-unresolved design flaws.