The expulsion of Turkish manufacturers from the F-35 fighter jet programme could worsen its supply chain delays, Defense News said.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a United States congressional watch group, said on Tuesday that the number of parts for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter delivered late had soared from less than 2,000 in August 2017 to more than 10,000 in July 2019.
The number of parts shortages per month also climbed from 875 in July 2018 to more than 8,000 in July 2019, Defense News quoted the GAO as saying. The late deliveries and shortages have forced contractors to reconfigure their assembly lines, causing production to be less efficient and more time consuming, the GAO said.
Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 programme was announced last year after Ankara purchased the Russian S-400 air defence system in defiance of protestations by NATO and the United States.
Although Turkey contributed financially to the F-35 development programme, the U.S. Defence Department has said that Turkey cannot buy or operate the F-35 unless it abandons the S-400 system.
The Pentagon has begun removing Turkish manufacturers from the F-35’s supply chain – a process that involves finding new companies to make 1,005 parts, some of which are solely-sourced by Turkish firms, Defense News said.
But some contracts with Turkish companies would likely remain throughout 2020. As of December 2019, the new production rates for 15 components were lagging behind those of the Turkish producers, Defense News reported.
“According to programme officials, some of these new parts suppliers will not be producing at the rate required until next year, as roughly 10 percent are new to the F-35 programme,” the GAO said.