U.S. defence firms begin adjusting Turkish F-35 exit

Leading American defense firms Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are gearing up to make major adjustments to their F-35 new generation fighter jets' production line to deal with the potential exit of Turkish manufacturers from the supply chain, American news outlet CNBC reported. 

The United States government has been issuing warnings to the Turkish government for years not to purchase the Russian air defence system due to its potential threats to U.S. state-of-the-art fighter jets.

Turkish officials have attempted to reassure the Western alliance by promising to deploy the F-35s and S-400s separately and with no links to one another, but their efforts appear to have failed.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence issued the sternest warning yet to Ankara this week during NATO meetings in Washington. The U.S. vice president came close to threatening Turkey with not only expulsion from the F-35 project but also from NATO. Fortunately for Turkey, there is no withdrawal or expulsion mechanism present in the alliance. 

CNBC wrote

If Turkey goes through with the Russian deal, Lockheed Martin would have to rework its supply chain on components for the F-35 fighter jet, while also making changes to its production schedule. Yet if Turkey abandons its deal with Russia, Raytheon would reorganize the Patriot missile defense system production schedule to guarantee that Turkey could receive the missile system within a faster time frame.

According to another report published by Air Force Times, Turkey's decision to purchase and receive S-400 batteries raises the question of whether the country should be in NATO.

“It’s astounding to see everyone in the same direction on this,” Rick Berger, a defense budget and military acquisition researcher at AEI and former Senate Budget Committee staffer told Air Force Times.

Air Force Times's reporter Kyle Rempfer concluded in his report that "if Turkey acquired the S-400 alongside the F-35, the technology that makes that aircraft lethal could potentially be compromised."

NATO states use a tactical data link that allows military aircraft and even ships and ground troops to share their tactical pictures in near-real time. This is called Link 16. NATO aircraft also use Identification Friend or Foe systems, known as IFF, to identify friendly aircraft in the sky.

An IFF and Link 16 interrogator would have to be integrated into the S-400 system to allow the Turkish F-35, with the transponder, to fly within lethal range of the S-400.

This opens up all Link 16 and IFF tactical data link equipment to be compromised, a former radar and weapons expert said on background.

“With the F-35 flying in close proximity to the S-400 system, over time, you could collect sensitive stealth characteristics of this F-35 and learn its detailed stealth capabilities,” the expert said.