F-35 Repairs in Europe

The F-35 system program office on Thursday announced that Italy will do heavy aircraft maintenance and Turkey will do heavy engine maintenance on Joint Strike Fighters located in the wider European region. Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said at a press conference that Italy won the right to do the work by virtue of its $1 billion investment in an F-35 final assembly and checkout facility on its soil, thus sharply reducing what the other partners must invest. Italy and Turkey are to be ready to do the work in 2018; in addition, Britain was designated to handle overflow aircraft work, while Norway and the Netherlands will provide additional engine capacity circa 2020. The F-35 will be so numerous that it makes no sense for the aircraft to “fly across oceans” to get the maintenance they require, Bogdan said, explaining that there will be such nationally designated repair centers in North America, Europe, and the Pacific region. The heavy maintenance nations in the Pacific will be named next week. Beyond heavy maintenance, there will be moderate and light maintenance centers in all three regions. Assignments of work will be re-evaluated every few years, and designated countries will have to demonstrate reliability to keep the work. Bogdan said there’s “hundreds of billions” of dollars worth of F-35 support work to go around, and no partners had complained about today’s selections, made by the US Defense Department on the basis of geography, operational assessments, capacity, and the “laydown of airplanes.” Thursday’s decisions will have no bearing on where US F-35s are stationed in Europe, he said.