Turkey’s projected fifth-generation TF-X fighter jet will cost about $100 million per fighter, journalist Burak Bekdil reported, citing the head of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) defense company Temel Kotil, Ahval news and analysis portal reported today, March 17.
Turkey is looking for alternatives to boost its airborne firepower after the U.S. suspended its participation in the latest F-35 fighter-bomber program in response to Ankara’s 2019 acquisition of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs).
The engine for the TF-X aircraft is currently in the conceptual design stage. TRMotor, a Turkish state-controlled engine manufacturer, has signed an agreement with TAI, the prime contractor for the TF-X program, to produce propulsion systems for the Turkish national fighter jet.
Temel Kotil, head of TAI, told Burak Bekdil in an interview that the TF-X will make its first flight in 2025 and be operational in 2029.
“TAI will produce two TF-X aircraft a month, hoping to generate $2.4 billion in annual revenue (from its sale),” he said.
Turkey does not rule out the possibility of buying Russian Su-35 and Su-57 multirole fighters, but Ankara’s priority is to develop its own fifth-generation combat aircraft. Turkish Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank told RIA Novosti on March 11. “If Russia has an aircraft that meets our current needs, if there are no difficulties with its implementation in our (defense) system, then, of course, we can buy it from Russia or from another country in Europe. In this sense, we do not have any categorical antagonistic position,” the spokesman said when asked about the possibility of Turkey buying Su-35s and Su-57s.
To recall, the United States previously excluded Turkey from the program of creating the fifth-generation fighters F-35, under which Ankara planned to buy more than 100 of the newest combat vehicles of American production. This happened due to the Turkish side’s rejection of Washington’s demands, trying to get its NATO ally to abandon the S-400 air defense systems, purchased from Russia.
Turkey has its own program TF-X National Combat Aircraft (MMU) – a joint project of TAI and the country’s Defense Industry Board (SSB) to create a national fighter aircraft. TF-X is a fifth-generation jet with characteristics similar to the F-35 Lightning II of the American company Lockheed Martin. The aircraft is being developed to replace the F-16 fighter-bombers of the Turkish Air Force with their gradual withdrawal from service during the 2030s.
After the purchase of S-400 SAMs, the Turkish military and political leadership has shown interest in buying Russian fighter-bombers Su-35 or Su-57. The Su-35 is a Russian multi-role 4++ generation fighter. The Su-57 is the latest fifth-generation fighter jet. On August 27, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspected this combat vehicle, first presented at the static display of the MAKS-2019 aerospace show in Zhukovsky.