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Turkish Lightning

Lockheed Martin holds F-35 rollout ceremony for Turkey


Turkey will receive its first F-35 LIGHTNING II Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin, despite opposition from US congress. Following a formal handoff ceremony at Lockheed Martin‘s F-35 facility in Fort Worth, TX/USA yesterday, the company will transfer the first two F-35s to Luke Air Force Base, AZ, where Turkish instructor pilots and maintainers will undertake a lengthy training programme alongside their US Air Force (USAF) counterparts. Turkey’s plan is to procure 100 F-35s in the next few decades, 30 of which have already been contracted. Turkey’s first F-35 will be deployed to Turkey in the third quarter of 2019 and it will be operational by the fourth quarter of 2020, according to Lockheed Martin. 

Although Turkey has long been a participant in the development of the F-35 programme, US Senate had sought to block Turkey from receiving the stealth fighter through language in the National Defense Authorization Act amid a deterioration of the US-Turkey relationship. The senate’s version of the defence bill expressed concern over Ankara’s planned purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft system from Russia (which could be incompatible with NATO systems used by Turkey’s alliance partners) and what it labeled Turkey’s unlawful and wrongful detention of Andre Brunson, a US citizen.

One of the concerns is, MONCh believes, that the Russian-made missile system, which is equipped with eight launchers and 32 missiles, is capable of targeting the stealthy F-35. Now the US is concerned they’d be handing Russia exactly this technology via Turkey. The air defence system’s radar (S-band, 2-4GHz) could reveal vulnerabilities in the jet. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim rightly called the senate vote, “lamentable,” describing it as against the spirit of NATO, which should trust its members…ne pas?

Kicking Turkey out of the F-35 programme would be admitting a NATO member cannot be trusted and that calls into question the whole alliance. As the US senate will take months to implement measure becoming law, the administration can move ahead with the sale because it is not yet prohibited in law. But things could get dicey later down the road once the S-400 is set to be deployed in Turkey, probably bringing efforts to block funding or the transfer of jets out of the US.

Lockheed Martin CEO and President Marillyn Hewson expressed her honour in delivering the first F-35A to Turkey, saying she was certain the F-35 would play a crucial role in enhancing global security, as this new generation sophisticated aircraft will have a transformative role with its high technology and capabilities.

A number of Turkish companies have been producing some key parts of the F-35s in line with the memorandum of understanding the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) signed with Lockheed Martin in 2007.

Turkey is a valuable partner and we really enjoy it. In fact, we have had a decades-old partnership with Turkey dating back to the production of F-16s,” Jack Crisler, F-35 Business Development and Strategy Integration Vice President, told a group of journalists in a briefing at the Lockheed Martin headquarters, a day before the ceremony. “Turkish industry is doing great job in producing quality parts and delivering them on time.”

Turkish companies who have supported the development and/or production of F-35 include: 

  • Alp Aviation currently manufactures F-35 production airframe structure and assemblies, production landing gear components and over 100 F135 production engine parts to include titanium integrated blade rotors.
  • Aselsan is developing manufacturing approaches for advanced optical components, which are part of the F-35 Electro Optical Targeting System. They are also working with Northrop Grumman on the F-35 CNI Avionic Interface Controller and will initiate full scale production activities in the near term.
  • Ayesas currently is the sole source supplier for two major F-35 components – missile remote interface unit and the panoramic cockpit display.
  • Fokker Elmo manufactures 40% of the F-35 Electrical Wiring & Interconnection System (EWIS) and will also deliver and support Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) with all centre section wiring systems. Fokker Elmo is also developing the EWIS for the F135 engine, for which a major share is produced in Fokker Elmo Turkey in Izmir.
  • Havelsan has been supporting the F-35 training systems since 2005. Additionally, Havelsan has been instrumental as the Turkish lead for developing the construct of the future Turkish F-35 Integrated Pilot and Maintenance Training Center (ITC) and associated training systems in Turkey.
  • Kale Aerospace has been supporting the F-35 since 2005. In conjunction with TAI, they manufacture and produce F-35 airframe structures and assemblies. Kale Aero also supports Heroux Devtek as the sole source supplier for all three variants landing gear up lock assemblies. Additionally, Kale Aerospace has also established a joint venture in Izmir with Pratt & Whitney and is manufacturing production hardware for the F135 engine.
  • MiKES has supported the F-35 programme during SDD delivering F-35 aircraft components and assemblies for BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman.
  • Roketsan and Tubitak-SAGE are the Turkish joint leadership team who strategically manage the development, integration, and production of the advanced precision-guided Stand-off Missile (SOM) which will be carried internally on the 5th Generation F-35 aircraft. Additionally, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has partnered with Roketsan, through a teaming agreement, to jointly develop, produce, market and sell the advanced, precision guided SOM – Joint Strike Fighter (SOM-J).
  • Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has been strategically supporting the F-35 programme since 2008. The company currently supplies production hardware that goes into every F-35 production aircraft. In conjunction with Northrup Grumman, TAI manufactures and assembles the center fuselages, produces composite skins and weapon bay doors, and manufactures fibre placement composite air inlet ducts. Additionally, TAI is strategically manufacturing 45% of the F-35’s including Air-to-Ground Pylons and adapters which is Alternate Mission Equipment (AME).

Additionally, Turkish Industry are going to have significant Industrial Participation role supporting Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney for F-35 aircraft sustainment and F135 engine production and sustainment. Turkey has been given the approval to build its own F135 engines and was also selected to have the first European Regional F135 Engine depot overhaul capability. Both the engine production and overhaul will take place at the 1st HIBM in Eskisehir. Additionally, TAI has also been assigned to represent the organic depots of the Turkish Armed Forces within the Autonomic Logistic Global Sustainment (ALGS) system and Havelsan has been assigned as the Turkish Integrator for the National Integrated Training Center (ITC).


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