The Pentagon has revealed that it has nearly completed finding alternate suppliers for the components of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that Turkey was signed up to produce.
The F-35 program executive for the Pentagon, Lieutenant General Eric Fick, testified in Congress that he expects Turkey to be phased out by March next year, noting that Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney had made significant progress in finding alternate suppliers.
“We began just over a year ago, very quietly but deliberately, taking actions to find alternate sources for all of those parts,” said Lt Gen Eric Fick.
“We are not quite there yet, so we have, on the airframe side, 11 components we have to mitigate to be at full-rate production ... and on the engines, there’s one: integrated bladed rotors, IBR’s.”
It was no easy task, with Turkey due to produce 1,000 parts.
However, the US has phased out the Turkish suppliers while also ensuring there are no delays from said suppliers in delivering previously-ordered parts.
Some of these parts will continue to be delivered after the March 2020 deadline.
Turkey is closing in on purchasing nearly 40 Russian-built Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets after being booted from the F-35 program.
Turkey was removed from the program due to their purchasing of a Russian-built S-400 air defence system, which the White House said rendered Turkey’s “continued involvement with the F-35 impossible”.
“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities. The United States has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defence solutions to meet its legitimate air defence needs, and this administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the US PATRIOT air defence system,” a release from the White House said in July.
“Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and NATO ally for over 65 years, but accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems. This will have detrimental impacts on Turkish interoperability with the alliance.”
Turkey received the air defence system in August, and was originally committed to purchase 100 F-35s before they were removed from the program.
It’s being reported that Turkey is now eyeing up purchasing close to a squadron (48 units) of Su-35s, although that figure could indeed double, considering their intention to buy 100 F-35s.
It's still unclear whether US President Donald Trump will impose congressional sanctions on Turkey for purchasing the S-400, outside of the F-35 program exile.
During a joint news conference with President Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed that the pair discussed the dispute over the S-400 and F-35, with the Turkish president leaving open the possibility of purchasing a Raytheon-made Patriot missile system, which the US previously offered as an alternative to the S-400.
President Erdogan called a previous US denial of the Patriot systems an “injustice orchestrated against Turkey”, adding: “We have clearly stated to President Trump that under suitable circumstances we can acquire Patriot missiles."
How do you feel the US will react to Turkey’s decision to purchase the Su-35 aircraft? Do you think it’s justified, considering the US made the decision to remove Turkey from the F-35 program? And are you concerned with how the relationship between the two countries seems to be steadily declining?