Turkish suppliers to be eliminated from F-35 program in 2020

The Pentagon is preparing to transfer Turkey’s industrial participation in the F-35 to other countries unless Ankara reverses course on its plans to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system.

The move — which in early 2020 would end contracts with major Turkish defense contractors such as Turkish Aerospace Industries, Roketsan and Tusas Engine Industries, among many others — is just one of many steps the U.S. Defense Department intends to take to strip Turkey from the F-35 program, according to a June 6 letter from acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

The training of Turkish F-35 pilots at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and of Turkish maintainers at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, will also end, Shanahan wrote, and U.S. military exercises in Turkey are in jeopardy.

“If Turkey procures the S-400, as we discussed during our call on May 28, 2019, our two countries must develop a plan to discontinue Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program,” Shanahan wrote in the letter, which was addressed to his counterpart, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. “While we seek to maintain our valued relationship, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400.”

However, Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, noted that Turkish participation in the program would be allowed to continue if it drops its plan to buy the Russian air defense system. The delivery of the S-400 could occur as early as this month.