04.09.2012 Ümit Enginsoy
Turkey is expected to use funds from its Defense Industry Support Fund to purchase a second pair of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightening jets to be delivered in 2016, says a Turkish procurement official. The first pair is set for delivery in 2015
Turkey will likely order a second pair of the jointly-made, next-generation, stealth fighter F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II aircraft, as it did earlier this year following the production of the first two, a senior procurement official said over the weekend.
Led by the U.S.-based company, Lockheed Martin, the F-35 consortium also includes companies from Turkey, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Norway and Denmark contributing to the plane’s production. This year Japan and Israel joined the list of countries seeking to acquire the F-35.
To be able to start the delivery of the JSF fighters in the year 2015, Turkey had to specify a figure it would buy as a first batch, in its first Defense Industry Executive Committee on Jan. 5, 2012. Despite an expected figure of six, Turkey initially ordered only two aircraft.
“We are expected to decide on the figure as two, as was the case before the Jan. 5 meeting. But the committee needs to confirm this figure at its next meeting,” said the senior procurement official.
Committee members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister I-İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of General Staff. Gen. Necdet Özel and Turkish Procurement Chief Murad Bayar.
In 2006, the United States warned that excessive concurrency in F-35 production and testing might result in expensive refits for several hundred aircraft planned to be produced before the completion of tests, bringing the unit price to over $150 million.
“We are planning to use funds from our Defense Industry Support Fund for the first four aircraft. Two are set for delivery in 2015, and another two for 2016,” the procurement official said. “Later, we will be expecting the creation of a special fund to finance the rest of the program.”
Turkey is expected to eventually buy around 100 F-35s, although the figure may rise up to 120. The Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI, and several other Turkish companies have grabbed contracts to produce more-than-$5 billion worth of the aircraft’s parts.
Cheaper than other options
Despite its huge price tag, the F-35 is considered to be a cheaper option than its contemporary solutions.
After 2020, Turkey is also planning to design, develop and produce another fighter plane to close the JSF’ s deficiencies either by itself, or through its other, most likely with South Korea.