Turkish expulsion from F-35 programme would slow production of up to 75 jets

If Turkey’s planned purchase of Russian missile defence systems leads to its removal from the supply chain of the F-35 fighter jet, this will slow the production of as many as 75 of the new generation stealth fighter jets, Reuters quoted a Pentagon official saying on Thursday.

Turkish defence companies currently produce parts for the F-35 including parts of its fuselage, though the country’s future in the production of the jet has been thrown into doubt by Ankara’s deal to purchase S-400 missile defence systems from Russia.

“The evaluation of Turkey stopping would be between 50- and 75-airplane impact over a two-year period,” the head of the F-35 programme, Navy Vice Admiral Mathias Winter, told a U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee subcommittee.

The impact of Turkey’s removal would become evident on the three production lines in between 45 and 90 days, Winter said.

The likelihood of Turkey exiting the programme increased this week, when the transfer of new equipment related to the jet was blocked by the U.S. government.

This was the first concrete step the United States has taken toward blocking the transfer of the jets to its NATO ally.

U.S. and NATO officials believe the computer systems used in the S-400s could pick up data from NATO hardware, including the F-35, and transfer it to Russia.

The issue has seen a number of bills presented to U.S. congress with bipartisan backing that sought to prevent Turkey from receiving the jets unless it gives assurances that the S-400 purchase will not go ahead. A bill passed last year ordered the Pentagon to deliver a report to congress assessing the impact of removing Turkey from the programme.