ANKARA: The removal of Turkey from the US F-35 joint strike fighter program is a massive loss for its defense industry, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.
The move had been widely expected since Turkey took delivery last year of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. It was confirmed when Turkey’s name was removed from the F-35 program’s official website.
Until this week Turkey was named as one of the nine principal contributors on the program’s official website, along with the US, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and the UK.
Can Kasapoglu, a defense analyst from the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, said the exclusion was a blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Many aerospace firms were involved in the project with lucrative technology know-how gains and co-production opportunities,” he told Arab News. “All these achievements were perfectly in league with Turkey’s defense modernization priorities.”
Turkey’s industrial engagement in the F-35 program brought a significant economic boost, with 10 contributing companies supplying more than 900 parts worth about $12 billion.
Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 program, and the US government must now find new suppliers for the parts manufactured by Turkish companies.
The US argues that participation in the F-35 program is incompatible with operating a Russian defense system, because of the risk of a security data breach. Turkey has already tested its radar system in Ankara against some of its air force’s US-made F-16 fighter jets.
However, activation of the $2.5 billion S-400 system, scheduled for April, has been delayed.
A retired senior official from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry told Arab News the delay would continue for a lengthy period. “Under a deepening economic recession, Ankara will not risk US sanctions by making the Russian system operational,” the official said. “Turkey also hopes for credit opportunities from the US for overcoming its cash problems. It may force Ankara to think twice.”