Turkish defense companies helping to build F-35 stealth fighter jets are thinking of moving their factories to Bulgaria if Turkey is removed from the supply chain, Şebnem Turhan from Dünya newspaper reported on Jan. 2, citing an anonymous source.
Accordingly, the Turkish companies involved in the F-35 program have already started to look at potential factory locations in Bulgaria, and one of these companies is Alp Aviation, operating its production line in Turkey’s western province of Eskişehir. Such a move of the companies will also be supported by the Turkish government, according the source from the defense industry.
“In any case, the sanctions have been imposed on the country [Turkey], not the firms themselves. Therefore, undertaking a production in Bulgaria instead of Turkey is important in terms of not losing the already-achieved gains,” said the source.
Turkish companies are responsible for 937 parts used to build the F-35, with 400 of those sole-sourced from Turkish firms. Eight Turkish companies are involved in the program: Roketsan, Havelsan, Alp Aviation, Ayesaş, Kale Aerospace, Tübitak-SAGE, the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), and the Turkish leg of the Dutch Fokker Elmo.
But, these firms’ role in the supply chain is now quite ambiguous after U.S. President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2019 signed a massive defense spending bill into law. The bill imposes sanctions on Turkey over Ankara’s decision to acquire Russian S-400 missile systems. The measures include blocking Turkey from obtaining F-35 jets and suspending the country’s participation to the program to build F-35 jets.
In the face of potential sanctions, Turkish defense firms are now looking into other options, with some of them thinking of continuing their production in Bulgaria.
“Among the firms that are looking for locations in Bulgaria, we have heard the name of Alp Aviation. Except that, a couple of other firms are assessing the option of Bulgaria. I need to say that the government’s approach to this issue is positive. Such alternatives are being discussed for the already-accumulated experience regarding the F-35 production not to go to waste,” the source told Dünya newspaper.