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

By Marcus Weisgerber

July 17, 2019

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.

Related: Looks Like Turkey Is Getting Booted from the F-35 Program

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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.

By Marcus Weisgerber // Marcus Weisgerber is the global business editor for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of Inside the Air Force. He has reported from Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, and often travels with the defense secretary and other senior military officials.

July 17, 2019