Turkey will continue making parts for the F-35 through 2020, at least a year and a half after the country was ejected from the Joint Strike Fighter program, the Pentagon’s top buyer said.
Defense leaders had hoped to find U.S. sources for all Turkish-made components by March, but have decided to allow prime contractor Lockheed Martin and engine-maker Pratt & Whitney to honor contractual obligations that will keep some parts arriving until year’s end.
“The majority of our supply chain will be out of Turkey by March 2020,” Ellen Lord, the defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, said Tuesday at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.
But Lockheed Martin and Pratt “have contracts in place that will perhaps carry out to the end of the year” that affect “a handful of systems,” she said. “We continue to manage the program to minimize impact to production.”
The Turkish parts are for six key components of the plane, including the jet’s fuselage and landing gear, an industry source said.
The parts are already paid for, the source said.
Ten Turkish companies built more than 900 F-35 parts before U.S. officials removed NATO ally Turkey from the project because Ankara bought S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia. Removing Turkey from the F-35 supply chain is expected to cost between $500 million and $600 million.
Four Turkish-owned F-35s are being stored at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The planes were being used for pilot training. Washington and Ankara must negotiate what will happen to those planes since Turkey owns them. There have been no discussions between Pentagon and Turkish officials about what happens to those aircraft, Lord said.
The U.S. Air Force is expected to receive 24 other jets — which are in various stages of production — that were being built for Turkey.
Lockheed built 134 F-35s last year, up from 91 in 2018 and 66 in 2017. The company is expected to build 141 jets this year and up to 160 per year by 2023.