President Erdogan: “An F-35 project excluding Turkey is doomed to fail.”
But is “F-35 without Turkey” is really possible?
The production phase of the F-35, which is called as the “warplane of the future” is going on since long years. But, the S-400 standoff between Turkey and the USA affects the course of the project.
The United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Norway, Netherlands, Israel, Japan, South Korea and Belgium are the countries in the F-35 project.
Lockheed Martin, the American company producing the F-35 fighter jets, delivered 91 aircrafts to the USA and the allied countries.
Why Turkey is in key position?
8 Turkish companies take part in the F-35 project. Here are these companies and their duties in the project:
Alp Aviation: It is included in the program since 2004. It produces more than 100 engine parts of the aircraft, including the anatomy and montage parts, landing gears components and titanium integrated knife rotors.
AYESAS: It produces two large missile interface units and the cockpit screen. Turkey is in an irreplaceable position for the production of the cockpit screen because AYESAS is the only provider of the two fundamental parts of the F-35: the missile remote control unit and the electronic cards of the panoramic cabin screen.
Fokker Elmo: The Dutch company is operating in Turkish city of Izmir. It produces 40% of the electrical wiring interconnect system (EWIS). Also, it produces all the central cross-section wiring systems for the Turkish company TAI.
HAVELSAN: It supports the F-35 training systems since 2005.
Kale Aerospace: The company is in the project since 2005 and it produces the structure and montage parts together with the Turkish Aerospace Industries Incorporation. Additionally, it is the only provider of the landing gears keys. Kale is also conducting co-production with the American aerospave company Pratt & Whitney for the F-35 engine.
ROKETSAN and TÜBİTAKSAGE: These companies are in charge of developing, integrating and producing of the aircraft’s guided missile SOM-J.
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI): The company provides many equipment of the all variants of the F-35 fighter jets. For instance, it produces the safety nets with the American defense company Northrup Grumman. It produces landing / take-off systems and the middle body parts, which are the among the most complicated parts of the aircraft. It produces the composite plates, blister gates and fiber fitting composite intake air ducts.
In conclusion, Turkish companies produce 800 pieces worth $12 billion. The fact no one wants to admit is that Turkey is not only a buyer in the F-35 project. It has a critical position in the production of the aircraft. Besides her role in the production, Turkey will be the maintenance and repair hub of the aircraft in Europe and wider region.
According to a New York Times report, Turkey has so far invested more than $1.25 billion in the project. Another media report in Washington Times, puts the number much higher as $8 billion, based on the statements of Deputy Secretary of State Jeb Babbin under the Bush administration.
Whatever the circumstances are, excluding Turkey from the project will be very harmful for the project itself. Especially, there are currently 966 detected errors which have to be fixed in the program according to the Washington based Government Accountability Office.