Blocking F-35 sale to Turkey may break U.S. aircraft production - Bloomberg

The U.S. Congress legislation blocking the sale of 100 F-35 fighter jets to Turkey would result in an aircraft production break if Ankara decides to stop supplying essential F-35 parts manufactured in the country, Robert Levinson, a former U.S. military officer, wrote to Bloomberg on Friday.

Turkey has ordered F-35 stealth fighter aircraft from the United States in June 2018, but at the same time has signed a deal with Russia to acquire the S-400 air-defence missiles. 

In August, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that could block the sale of 100 of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey because of Ankara's agreement with Kremlin to buy the missiles, saying that the Russian-made system could damage NATO defence system’s interoperability and potentially open a backdoor through which Russia could access to NATO military data.

However, Turkey is a global leader in aerospace manufacturing, and 10 Turkish companies are to produce about $12 billion worth of parts for the F-35 jets, according to Levinson. 

If the United States prevents the delivery of F-35 fighter jets, Turkey could cut off the shipment of those essential parts, Levinson said.

Turkey manufactures some vital components of F-35s such as the centre fuselage, landing gear, and air-to-ground pylons. Also, Turkey is the sole supplier of the cockpit display in the world. 

“If the Turkish supply chain was disrupted today, it would result in an aircraft production break, delaying delivery of 50-75 jets and would take approximately 18-24 months to re-source parts,” wrote Levinson quoting from a letter to Congress written by U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Turkey's plans to buy Russian S-400 missiles, as a part of a broader political and military cooperation between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, have disturbed U.S. officials. Tthe legislators in Washington have called on the White House in July to suspend sales of the aircraft, pointing to the missile purchase and Turkey’s jailing of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson on terrorism charges.