Lockheed Martin Corp. CEO Marillyn Hewson reported the aerospace and defense contractor is taking steps to remove Turkish suppliers from the F-35 Lightning II supply chain, and to establish alternative, domestic suppliers for F-35 parts, following a U.S. Dept. of Defense decision to remove Turkey from the fighter jet program. “We’ve been working to wind down the Turkish industry involvement and so we have a timeline that we’re working towards,” Hewson noted, adding that the new suppliers would be in place by late Q1 2020.
Hewson also indicated other nations have expressed interest in supplying the affected systems, offering Poland as an option.
Turkey is among numerous nations participating in the F-35 program, as a buyer of 100 aircraft for its defense forces and with Turkish manufacturers contributing numerous components and systems, reportedly including landing-gear parts and cockpit displays.
The F-35 is a series of three, Stealth-enabled single-engine aircraft designed for ground attack and combat, and deployed by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, and the defense forces of numerous NATO member and other allied nations. More than 350 of the aircraft have been built and deployed since 2006, with Lockheed as the lead contractor among several hundred suppliers.
The problem for the Turkish suppliers concerns plans by Turkey’s Defense Industries Directorate to purchase and install the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft weapon system, developed by Russia's Almaz Central Design Bureau and in use by the Russian Armed Forces since 2007. U.S. defense officials insist the S-400 is incompatible with NATO's defense network and could compromise the security and functionality of the F-35.
Earlier this month President Trump moved to withhold sales of the F-35 to Turkey after the nation took delivery of the S-400 system.
As a NATO member, Turkey’s decision to adopt the Russian anti-aircraft system has wider implications for the alliance, and for the wider defense supply chain.