Ejecting Turkey from the F-35 Effort Will Cost At Least Half a Billion Dollars

Airmen 1st Class Griffin Smith and William Manion, both 33rd Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuels system repairman apprentices, don safety gear to prepare an F-35A Lightning II for maintenance at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 13, 2016.

U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Andrea Posey

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Airmen 1st Class Griffin Smith and William Manion, both 33rd Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuels system repairman apprentices, don safety gear to prepare an F-35A Lightning II for maintenance at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 13, 2016.

That’s the Pentagon’s low estimate for replacing Turkish suppliers of more than 900 parts.

It will cost the U.S. Defense Department between $500 million and $600 million to remove Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Pentagon acquisition chief said Wednesday.

That’s the cost of finding and setting up U.S. suppliers to make the 900-plus components currently made by ten Turkish manufacturers, Ellen Lord, defense undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

Lord described Turkey’s removal as having “minimal impact on the larger F-35 partnership.” 

She spoke just hours after the Trump administration said it would remove Turkey from the multibillion-dollar stealth fighter project because Ankara purchased S-400 missile interceptors from Russia.

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Related: Send Turkey’s F-35s to Eastern Europe

“We have worked on alternate sources for the over 900 parts — we have been working since 2018 on this,” Lord said. “We are proceeding with a very orderly wind down through March 2020 … so we expect minimal impact to the program.”

Asked if Turkey would be reimbursed for planes they have purchased, Lord said, “We are discussing the specifics about the aircraft they have purchased so far as we speak.” 

Turkey has ordered 30 F-35s, four of which are at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where they are being used for pilot training. The rest are in various stages of production, according to a person with knowledge of Ankara’s orders. 

Turkish military pilots and maintenance workers were told Wednesday they must leave the United States, Lord said.

“[W]e doubt there’s a significant impact on the F-35,” Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, said in a note to investors shortly after the formal announcement was made.

Lord said the ten Turkish manufacturers had been slated to make about $9 billion on F-35 parts contracts. As of July, they already had about $1 billion in commitments, she said.

“Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision,” she said. 

Initially, the Pentagon plans to use U.S. suppliers to fabricate the Turkish-made parts, but will eventually open that work up to companies in countries buying the F-35, Lord said.

In addition to making parts, an F-35 engine maintenance facility was supposed to be based in Turkey.

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