DOD: Relocating F-35 Supply Chain Costs Up to $600 Million

The S-400 Triumpf is shown in Moscow during a parade rehearsal in 2018. Photo by Dmitriy Fomin via Flickr.

The Pentagon is working through the financial and geopolitical ripple effects of Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program even as US officials reiterate that Turkey is still a valued partner.

Turkey is now receiving the Russian-built S-400 air defense system, which the US argues is incompatible with the F-35.

In the department’s first briefing since S-400 deliveries began last week, Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord said July 17 the US is spending $500 million to $600 million in one-time engineering expenses to move parts of the supply chain out of Turkey by March 2020, and that officials are discussing whether Turkey will be reimbursed for the jets it bought. Turkey stands to lose $9 billion in local work pulled out of the country over the life of the program, Lord said.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Michael Friedman said the company has worked closely with the US government and its supply chain to minimize the impact Turkey’s departure has on the F-35 program.

“Over the last several months we’ve been working to establish alternative sources of supply in the United States to quickly accommodate Turkey’s current contributions to the program,” he said. “These actions will limit any future production or sustainment impact and we remain on track to meet our commitment of delivering 131 F-35s this year. As F-35s in the fleet deliver exceptional capability and costs continue to come down, we see increasing global demand for the F-35 that will grow the total program of record.”

While it’s regrettable the US-Turkey partnership is working through this problem, Lord said, it’s in the best interest of the F-35. The US has unsuccessfully offered Ankara the American-built Patriot air defense system multiple times.

“Turkey cannot field a Russian intelligence-collection platform in proximity to where the F-35 program makes repairs and houses the F-35,” Lord said July 17. “Much of the F-35’s strengths [lie] in its stealth capabilities, so the ability to detect those capabilities would jeopardize the long-term security of the F-35 program.”

Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy David Trachtenberg added the department is “not focused” for now on whether other stealthy US planes like the F-22 or B-2 will be banned from participating in exercises near Turkey for similar security reasons.

When asked whether India, another US defense partner, will receive the same treatment as Turkey as it also pursues the S-400, Trachtenberg said: “Our defense partnership with India, I think, is strong, and we’re looking to make it ever stronger.”

He added removing Turkey from the F-35 program is intended to strengthen the NATO alliance and that the US will continue working with those nations to ensure their collective security.