Pentagon Finally Kicks Turkey Out of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program

Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II (Photo Courtesy Lockheed Martin)

The United States is “unwinding” Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program as a result of the country buying the Russian S-400 air defense missile system, Pentagon officials said. With the removal of Turkey from F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, all future purchases of F-35 have been banned by the United States, with current contracts cancelled by early 2020.

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg told reporters in the Pentagon that Turkey has taken delivery of the Russian-built system. Turkey cannot have both the Russian system and the fifth-generation fighter.

Turkey was set to not only buy 100 of the F-35A variants of the fighter but also was part of the larger international industrial base for the program.

Trachtenberg called the development unfortunate and said the U.S. government has worked tirelessly to avoid the necessity. “But let me be clear, the United States greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey — that remains unchanged,” he said. “As long-standing NATO allies, our relationship is multilayered and extends well beyond the F-35 partnership. We will continue our extensive cooperation with Turkey across the entire spectrum of our relationship.”

“Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision. It will no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected workshare related to the F-35 over the life of the program,” Lord said. “Turkey made more than 900 parts for the F-35 and had been assigned more than $1 billion in industrial participation across 10 Turkish suppliers.”

The Defense Department had set aside $500 to 600 million in “non-reoccurring engineering” to retool the industrial base to make up for the loss of Turkish companies in the program. The industrial base would begin a “deliberate” process of removing Turkey for the supply chain by March.

The US has notified Turkey that about 25 Turkish pilots and maintainers assigned to the program would no longer given access to the spaces at the F-35 Joint Program Office and were set to return to Turkey.

Prior to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 system, the state department approved MIM-104 Patriot for Ankara, Ankara wanted PAC3 work sharing agreements with Raytheon. Both Washington and Ankara were unsuccessful in sealing a foreign military sales deal for Turkey to buy the PAC-3 Patriot anti-air missile batteries.

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