Turkey proposes cost-cutting measure to US on F-35 project
Özgür Ekşi ANKARA
Lockheed Martin is developing three versions of the new plane for the US military and the eight partner countries.The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) has made an offer to the United States for greater Turkish involvement in the manufacturing of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35, which would cut the cost of the project by around $3.5 billion.
SSM Undersecretary Murad Bayar put forward the proposal to Michael Camunez, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce, when the two met in Ankara on April 5, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.
It is widely speculated in the international media that the cost of the program is increasing day by day, even though the main contractor Lockheed Martin has announced precautions to cut it down.
TAI may complete 400 fuselages
Bayar said Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) could play a greater role in the program in such a way that would help reduce the cost. “As a program partner, TAI will complete 400 airplane central fuselages - the core structure around which the F-35 aircraft is built. TAI will get 4 billion dollars for the job. The investment has already been made. TAI could complete the central fuselage for 624 airplanes with no extra investment cost. It means that the process of the remaining airplanes’ central fuselage will cost $2 billion. Doing the job in Turkey could save $3.5 billion, since prices are higher in the U.S. and lower in Turkey,” a source said, on condition of anonymity.
Other industry sources, however, say there is a business plan for production and that revision is not easy. U.S. Company Northrop Grumman is currently responsible for the design and production of center fuselages for all three variants of the F-35 aircraft: CTOL, short takeoff, vertical landing (STOVL) and a carrier variant.
The total cost of the program is not yet known and the authorities have so far refrained from making a definite statement. Lockheed Martin’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Strategy and Business Development, Patrick Dewar, has indicated that each F-35 will cost on average no more than the F-16 that Turkey buys. Turkey has ordered two F-35 airplanes to be delivered by 2016 and is expected to order at least 98 in total. Each F-16 costs Turkey approximately $50 million.