Turkey’s removal from F-35 program to cause hike in engine price
The company’s F135 engine — which is used in all three variants of the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter — was initially manufactured with a total of 188 parts produced by Turkish suppliers, Matthew Bromberg told lawmakers during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
“These are some of the most critical parts of the engine, and the Turkey suppliers were high-quality, low cost,” he said. “Seventy-five percent of them have been qualified in new suppliers. Most of those are domestic here in the United States.”
Pratt & Whitney expects to have the remaining 25 percent of Turkish-made parts for the F135 qualified by the end of 2021, with all Turkish parts flushed from the system by the time engines for the fifteenth lot of aircraft roll off the line in 2020. At that point, about 20 percent of the F135′s parts will be made by international vendors.
Turkey, once a partner in the F-35 program set to buy 100 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing models, was expelled from the program after accepting delivery of the Russian S-400 air defense system. At the time, the Pentagon hoped to remove all Turkish suppliers from the program by 2020, but it will take until 2022 for all contracts with Turkish companies to come to a close, said Greg Ulmer, head of Lockheed’s aeronautics programs.
The Pentagon’s F-35 joint program office is “continuing to work with Pratt and Whitney on steps to address the projected cost growth to ensure that the F135 Propulsion System remains affordable component of the F-35 air system,” F-35 program executive Lt. Gen. Eric Fick stated in written testimony to lawmakers.
Aside from the forthcoming engine cost increase, the F-35 program is also grappling with difficulties in sustaining the F135 due to a power module shortage.
On April 22, a total of 21 Air Force F-35As were grounded due to engine problems, said Brig. Gen. David Abba, who leads the F-35 integration office. Fifteen of those aircraft would be flyable with engine repairs.