LONDON — Lockheed Martin and Roketsan signed a contract Wednesday today at the Turkish missile company’s booth at DSEI minting a cooperation agreement to develop the SOM-J missile intended for integration into the US Air Force and Navy versions of the F-35 fighter jet. ’s internal weapons bay.
"We have been working with Roketsan for quite a while and coming off what they’ve done and development of SOM missile and integration on Turkish F-16s, we saw an opportunity to work with them for SOM-J," Rick Edwards, Lockheed’s executive vice president of its missiles and fire control division, told reporters today after signing the contract.
The partnership takes advantage of Roketsan's development of the weapon and Lockheed's experience in aircraft integration.
The F-35 will be purchased by 12 countries including the United States and Turkey. is among them. "We believe [SOM-J] has great international appeal," Edwards said, standing next to a mock-up of the SOM missile. "It’s designed around what the F-35 users are going to want" and another opportunity to work with Turkey, he said.
"Our relationships with Turkish industry have been fantastic. We use Turkish parts on many of our programs and the thing that I look for as a leader in the business is high quality, reliable delivery of parts and I get that from Turkish industry every time," Edwards said.
Edwards said Lockheed and Roketsan are aligning the development schedule for SOM-J to stay in step with the US government’s plan to conduct an analysis of available weapons as part of Block 4.2 new capabilities integration expected in the 2018 or 2019. time frame. Edwards added he expects a competition for a weapon of choice for the F-35 and said it is Lockheed and Roketsan's goal "to make this the weapon of choice for F-35."
Roketsan has "done a lot of work on the product already," Edwards said, and the new contract will enable an exchange of technical data. Over the next few years, the two companies will develop a detailed design and make subcontractor selections, then the new missile will be tested.
While the missile is intended to fit inside the F-35, Edwards said, "there's no reason they can't be used for other applications as well."
SOM-J missiles for Turkey and other international countries would have final assembly in Ankara, Turkey, Cheryl Amerine, a Lockheed spokeswoman, said. Final assembly for US missiles would take place at a Lockheed Martin manufacturing site in the US. "Regardless of the site, the missiles will have a common supply chain," she added.
Raytheon and Norwegian company Kongsberg announced its partnership to develop a missile for the F-35 last summer at the Farnborough International Airshow outside of London. Norway will also fly F-35s.
The agreement between Lockheed and Roketsan happens at an awkward period for US-Turkey relations. At times the US and Turkey work together, such as conducting operations against the Islamic State in Syria, but also differ over whether to focus on overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria or whether to focus on defeating the Islamic State in Syria first.
In the defense acquisition realm, Turkey rejected the Raytheon and Lockheed Martin-made Patriot air-and-missile defense system and PAC-3 missiles and a French offering, and in a surprise move favored a Chinese company to build its own air and missile defense system. to the world’s surprise. The decision, made over a year ago, has yet to be finalized. But Lockheed has also worked with Roketsan in the past, partnering to produce canisters for PAC-3 missiles.
The US government also decided last month to withdraw Patriot systems on loan to Turkey for its Syrian border defenses, stating the systems needed to undergo modernization upgrades.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.