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Turkish Government invites bids for F-35 system integration contract
February 22, 2018
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Photo source: Lockheed Martin

Turkish Government invites bids for F-35 system integration contract

Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) has invited bids for enabling the Turkish Air Force’s F-35 Lightning II fleet to connect with the Turkish Air Force Information System (HVBS).

Designated by the SSM as the HVBS-JSF Integration Project, the objective is to ensure that HVBS and F-35 securely exchange information. The formal request-for-proposals (RFP) will be available from the SSM from January 12, with industry submissions due to the SSM by February 28, 2018.

Turkey is a Level 3 Partner in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, which resulted in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. In tandem with its investment in the program and decision to procure the F-35, Turkey’s defence and aerospace industry is a supplier for the program.

According to Lockheed Martin, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) along with private companies Kale Aerospace and Alp Aviation contribute to the F-35’s aerostructure with sub-assemblies manufacturing. Alp Aviation also manufactures 100+ parts for the Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engine, including the titanium blade rotors. Aselsan is supplying parts for the F-35’s electro-optical targeting system, while the munitions maker Roketsan is producing its Stand-off Missile (SOM) cruise missile. Turkey will also provide maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for the F135 along with licensed engine production.

Turkey announced its initial F-35 orders in January of last year, with the SSM head Ismail Demir reportedly stating that the first batch will be delivered in 2019. Currently, two tranches are on order: 10 from 2014 and 24 ordered in 2016, with the latter set due starting from 2021 or 2022.

The F-35 is slated to be the Turkish Air Force’s next-generation mainstay strike aircraft, supplanting the F-4 Phantom II in the role. Roketsan’s SOM-J cruise missile will be among the Turkish F-35’s primary stand-off range weapons, enabling it to engage targets on land and at sea.

In November 2017, U.S. Air Force (USAF) deputy undersecretary Heidi Grant had hinted that the Turkish F-35 program could be re-evaluated in light of Ankara’s recent purchase of Almaz-Antey S-400 long-range air defence systems. However, it is unclear if Ankara will receive a penalty for the purchase, it could be a case of the USAF pushing to guarantee that the F-35 is secured from any and all third-party exposure.

In parallel to the F-35, Turkey is pursuing the Milli Muharebe Uçağı (National Combat Aircraft) program – i.e. the TF-X. The twin-engine multi-role fighter is envisaged to replace the Turkish Air Force’s F-16s from the 2020s. TAI contracted BAE Systems to provide engineering and technical support for the TF-X.

  • Hashim Rasheed

    Could there be a possibility of those F-16s coming to Pakistan? Pakistan may look to replace their Block 15 F-16s with the relatively newer ones from Turkey, which would most probably be Block 52.

    • Faisal

      No. US will not allow a 3rd party selling F-16s to Pakistan. They recently blocked Jordan from selling its used F-16s to Pakistan. Unless there is change of Government in US and new Govt has favorable opinion about Pakistan, there is no chance. Previous administration was better in a way that they were okay with 3rd country selling equipment to Pakistan.

      • TZK

        There is a slim chance a new administration will try alternative strategies but overall policy will not change. It’s part of a strategy of increasing pressure but all it will do is drive Pak closer to China. Pak should not have allowed themselves to fall into dependency trap. I would stop purchasing anymore of their arms and develop indigenous stuff with the help of China or Turkey. I think they want a long term base in Afghanistan and have no need for Pak except access. The Baluch may grant them that if Pak does not tread carefully.

        • Faisal

          Agreed. Any US purchase is a trap. Pakistan should have realized that long ago. J-10 opportunity was missed for the same reason.
          Baluch people can’t grant them access unless its approved by Federal Govt. Making Baluchistan independent wont be that easy considering China’s interest in sea route.

          • TZK

            The separatist movement in Baluchistan is an existential threat and Pak should not take it lightly. The ongoing military v civilian mistrust is also a major problem. Pak is not presenting its case to the non aligned nations outside of the USA sphere of influence. Pak needs to wake up and become media savvy to present it’s case.

        • Nate

          I know what you’re saying, but realistically, Pak doesnt have the resources to develop a 10th of what it needs to counter India. Its economy is a fraction of the size needed for that.
          Americas support of Pak was essentially a geo-political misstep. India was an emerging nuclear power, under Russian patronage in the 70’s and America felt they needed a regional counter, so they gave massive assistance to Pakistan.
          As a western country, it was foolish policy, shortsighted one might say. Having said that, thats a bit of a hindsight analysis. At the time, I’m sure it seemed like the correct course of action.
          Going forward, India is by now well and truly back in the western fold and is turning into the counter the west is increasingly relying on for China, hopefully, and the Pakistan support, well, thats gone for good. No western tech is ever likely to be provided in meaningful quantities again.

          • TZK

            ‘Going forward, India is by now well and truly back in the western fold and is turning into the counter the west is increasingly relying on for China’

            Unfortunately that’s not how Indians see it they will always view Pak as the ‘enemy’ and politicians in India have been trading on this since 1947. Even with western help it is going to be too much to ask of India to compete with China economically and militarily let alone with Pak as well which ironically the west is determined to push towards China. You win some and you lose some as they say.

  • Shafiq Ahmed

    Most of PAF F 16s are MLUs and at par with block 52+

  • kadet

    The American government(perhaps in accordance with the aims of the deep state), if we look at the behavior towards Turkey recently, ( countries like Iran, Pakistan and Qatar) this seems a bit difficult deliveries. The United States supported the July 15 coup attempt and established a Kurdish army of 60,000 in northern Syria. Turkey or Pakistan, can not buy Javelin missiles, deployed to the pkk militants.

  • Shershahsuri

    What about Turkey’s Ozgur upgrade for F-16s which is analogous to Block 70 upgrade. will it be around till 2019? Whether it will be available to Pakistan?

    • Turkey’s developing its upgrade, but it’ll be a while before it materializes and is available for the PAF to examine. However, there is also the concern of the U.S. and ITAR, which may prevent the PAF from being able to exercise that upgrade option.

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