What next for the F-35 after Turkey's threats to turn its back on NATO?

West's lovebombing of Erdogan doesn't disguise tech transfer threat


Comment Turkey has hinted it may try to leave NATO – which could cause difficulties for the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme because the country has signed up to buy 100 of the advanced jet fighters.

Speaking to state news agency Anadolu, Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, hit out at both NATO and the EU over their lack of perceived support for the country following July's supposed coup d'etat against President Recip Tayyip Erdogan.

Reuters summarised Casuvoglu's remarks as, “Turkey may seek other options outside NATO for defence industry co-operation, although its first option is always cooperation with its NATO allies.”

President Erdogan met Russian president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, prompting concern amongst Western leaders.

Meanwhile a NATO spokesman sought to smooth over the Turkish statement, saying: “Turkey is a valued Ally, making substantial contributions to NATO's joint efforts.  Turkey takes full part in the Alliance’s consensus-based decisions as we confront the biggest security challenges in a generation. Turkey’s NATO membership is not in question.”

The alliance has even moved an installation by a Turkish artist opposite its new HQ, in a bid to keep Ankara sweet:

However, Turkey's obvious shift away from the West raises a thorny problem: if it deepens its ties with Russia and other powers traditionally not aligned with the West, what would – or should – happen to its planned buy of 100 state-of-the-art F-35 fighters?

Tech transfer? Not so much

Turkey's involvement in the F-35 is already fairly deep. Around 10 Turkish companies are building various components for the aircraft, in support of the country's intention to buy conventional F-35As.

Amongst other Turkish firms, Ayesas is currently the sole supplier for the F-35's panoramic cockpit display and its missile remote interface unit, while Fokker Elmo makes 40 per cent of the aircraft's wiring harness. These systems are far from critical to the F-35 and the Turkish production is mainly of assemblies which could be built elsewhere, such as central fuselage sections.

However, rather than buying cutting-edge Western weaponry to go with its cutting-edge Western jets, Turkey is developing its own SOM-J stand-off missile for its F-35As. In addition, most of the Turkish industrial involvement seems to be confined to manufacture of Western-designed components – at least, going by the official F-35 website's potted summaries of who's doing what. It is not unknown for these public summaries to gloss over the more interesting work being done behind the scenes.

Hey, Vlad. Come and kick the tyres on this...

The main concern, however, is who might get their hands on the aircraft's more advanced technologies. The F-35A's main aerial adversaries are likely to be Russian-backed nations' air forces and for the Russians to gain access to inspect and test the F-35, figuring out at their leisure what its weaknesses are, would be a serious blow for the West.

While Turkey's situation seems to be bombast rather than any serious moves to deepen ties with Russia – at present – as a NATO nation Turkey holds a lot of information and hardware of great interest to Russian tacticians. It is feasible that access to cutting-edge technology, including the F-35, could form part of a diplomatic quid-pro-quo in the future.

Moreover, if Turkey held a Red Flag-style exercise with Russia and used the F-35 to its full potential – typically non-allied nations holding air-to-air exercises together don't disclose their full tactical abilities for fear of giving away “trade secrets” to potential future enemies – the information gained by Russia would be very valuable, particularly for regional allies likely to have to face the F-35 – such as Syria.

Immediately after the Turkish coup, though, Lockheed Martin was keen to play down any hints of problems it might cause the F-35 programme. In its Q2 results call, which took place a week after the coup was put down by forces loyal to President Erdogan, Lockheed Martin chief executive Marillyn Hewson said Turkey is “an essential security partner for the US and our allies … we have not seen an indication [the coup] will affect our business.”

Dropping Turkey from the F-35 programme would hurt the UK

In spite of all the security worries, losing 100 F-35 orders as well as a reasonably large industrial partner would doubtless push the costs of the F-35 programme through the roof. Turkey remains a NATO member for now, and the alliance is clearly keen to keep them on board; Turkey's strategic location, guarding the all-important Bosphorus strait and keeping Russia's naval ambitions firmly contained inside the Black Sea, and away from vital shipping lanes in the eastern Mediterranean, makes them a vital strategic partner to the West.

Keeping that partnership going, therefore, implies that the US and NATO may have to accept the risks posed by a Turkey which is ambivalent about supporting the West's wider policy objectives – and may involve potentially hostile states learning more about the F-35 than we would like.

While Turkey was selected to be the first European regional production and overhaul centre for the F-35's Pratt and Whitney F135 engine, the skills required to overhaul complex turbofan engines are, if not abundant, certainly present in the UK. It's a stretch too far to say that the UK could benefit if Turkey is kicked out of the programme, or that the economic benefits of absorbing the Turkish production would help offset the inevitable rise in per-airframe costs with the loss of 100 orders. The excellent War is Boring blog estimates that an F-35B – the model on order by the UK – costs a staggering $251m (£193.4m).

Currently there are 3,100 F-35s on order from 12 countries, with 2,400 of those being destined for the US. Britain's purchase of 138 F-35Bs is intended chiefly to equip the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm for deployment aboard Britain's Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. ®


Other stories you might like

  • How business makes streaming faster and cheaper with CDN and HESP support

    Ensure a high video streaming transmission rate

    Paid Post Here is everything about how the HESP integration helps CDN and the streaming platform by G-Core Labs ensure a high video streaming transmission rate for e-sports and gaming, efficient scalability for e-learning and telemedicine and high quality and minimum latencies for online streams, media and TV broadcasters.

    HESP (High Efficiency Stream Protocol) is a brand new adaptive video streaming protocol. It allows delivery of content with latencies of up to 2 seconds without compromising video quality and broadcasting stability. Unlike comparable solutions, this protocol requires less bandwidth for streaming, which allows businesses to save a lot of money on delivery of content to a large audience.

    Since HESP is based on HTTP, it is suitable for video transmission over CDNs. G-Core Labs was among the world’s first companies to have embedded this protocol in its CDN. With 120 points of presence across 5 continents and over 6,000 peer-to-peer partners, this allows a service provider to deliver videos to millions of viewers, to any devices, anywhere in the world without compromising even 8K video quality. And all this comes at a minimum streaming cost.

    Continue reading
  • Cisco deprecates Microsoft management integrations for UCS servers

    Working on Azure integration – but not there yet

    Cisco has deprecated support for some third-party management integrations for its UCS servers, and emerged unable to play nice with Microsoft's most recent offerings.

    Late last week the server contender slipped out an end-of-life notice [PDF] for integrations with Microsoft System Center's Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager. Support for plugins to VMware vCenter Orchestrator and vRealize Orchestrator have also been taken out behind an empty rack with a shotgun.

    The Register inquired about the deprecations, and has good news and bad news.

    Continue reading
  • Protonmail celebrates Swiss court victory exempting it from telco data retention laws

    Doesn't stop local courts' surveillance orders, though

    Encrypted email provider Protonmail has hailed a recent Swiss legal ruling as a "victory for privacy," after winning a lawsuit that sees it exempted from data retention laws in the mountainous realm.

    Referring to a previous ruling that exempted instant messaging services from data capture and storage laws, the Protonmail team said this week: "Together, these two rulings are a victory for privacy in Switzerland as many Swiss companies are now exempted from handing over certain user information in response to Swiss legal orders."

    Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court ruled on October 22 that email providers in Switzerland are not considered telecommunications providers under Swiss law, thereby removing them from the scope of data retention requirements imposed on telcos.

    Continue reading
  • Japan picks AWS and Google for first gov cloud push

    Local players passed over for Digital Agency’s first project

    Japan's Digital Agency has picked Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud for its first big reform push.

    The Agency started operations in September 2021, years after efforts like the UK's Government Digital Service (GDS) or Australia's Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). The body was a signature reform initiated by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who spent his year-long stint in the top job trying to curb Japan's reliance on paper documents, manual processes, and faxes. Japan's many government agencies also operated their websites independently of each other, most with their own design and interface.

    The new Agency therefore has a remit to "cut across all ministries" and "provide services that are driven not toward ministries, agency, laws, or systems, but toward users and to improve user-experience".

    Continue reading
  • Singaporean minister touts internet 'kill switch' that finds kids reading net nasties and cuts 'em off ASAP

    Fancies a real-time crowdsourced content rating scheme too

    A Minister in the Singapore government has suggested the creation of an internet kill switch that would prevent minors from reading questionable material online – perhaps using ratings of content created in real time by crowdsourced contributors.

    "The post-COVID world will bring new challenges globally, including to us in the security arena," said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at a Tuesday ceremony to award the city-state's 2021 Defense Technology Prize.

    "For operations, the SAF (Singapore Armed Force) has to expand its capabilities in the digital domain. Whether for administrative or operational purposes, I think that we will need to leverage technology to the maximum," he declared.

    Continue reading
  • China Telecom booted out of USA as Feds worry it could disrupt or spy on local networks

    FCC urges more action against Huawei and DJI, too

    The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has terminated China Telecom's authority to provide communications services in the USA.

    In its announcement of the termination, the government agency explained the decision is necessary because the national security environment has changed in the years since 2002. That was when China Telecom was first allowed to operate in the USA.

    The FCC now believes – partly based on classified advice from national security agencies – that China Telecom can "access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States." And because China Telecom is state-controlled, China's government can compel the carrier to act as it sees fit, without judicial review or oversight.

    Continue reading
  • Qualcomm gets news of modest Snapdragons out of the way before next month's big chip launch

    A little more oomph coming for cheaper smartphones

    Budget smartphones these days do OK with 5G though lack performance in other areas, and so Qualcomm has promised some system-on-chips to give these modest devices some more oomph.

    The processors, announced on Tuesday for entry and mid-range 5G smartphones, also clears the deck for big chip announcements Qualcomm is expected to make at its Snapdragon Tech Summit starting at the end of next month.

    The 6nm Snapdragon 695 5G, unveiled this week, is a successor to the 8nm 690 5G used in the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, which is priced under $300, and various other handhelds.

    Continue reading
  • Raising the price of in-demand processors really helps the bottom line, says AMD

    You don't double operating income by giving silicon away

    AMD, which is raking in cash from its CPUs and GPUs, said higher price tags on its components helped bolster its financial results for the third quarter of this year.

    Its CPU and GPU average selling prices were higher compared to the previous quarter and year, which helped grow revenue. This increase was "driven by a richer mix of Ryzen processor sales," and "by high-end Radeon graphics product sales and AMD Instinct data center GPU sales," the business stated.

    "AMD had another record quarter as revenue grew 54 per cent and operating income doubled year-over-year," said AMD president and CEO Dr Lisa Su.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021