The Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. (TAI) and ASELSAN, which are among the leading defense companies in the country, signed a preliminary agreement of cooperation Thursday regarding the production of the National Fighter Jet, the TF-X, a project of critical importance for the domestic defense industry. The deal took place at the Eurasia Airshow, the largest aviation event in Turkey and held under the auspices of the presidency. The two tech giants develop critical systems such as national radar, electronic warfare and electro-optical systems for the aircraft.
The fifth-generation fighter jet, one of the country's largest design projects announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will be realized within a project-based incentive system. Preliminary design activities received a TL 4.8 billion (around $1.18 billion) incentive certificate under the incentive program. The project will employ 3,200 people, with an indirect employment contribution estimated to be around 11,200.
TAI continues its preliminary design works for the production of modern aircraft designed with domestic capabilities and that can replace the F-16 aircraft, which are in the inventory of the Turkish Air Forces Command and are considered to be gradually deactivated as of the 2030s.
Within the scope of the project, it is aimed to develop the needed critical task systems locally and for them to be integrated into the jet to gain full operational capability at appropriate stages in the progress of the project.
Such systems play an important role in the success of the national combat jet, which is, with the product and technology development weight, Turkey's biggest and most challenging research and development (R&D) project.
Speaking to Turkish daily Dünya last week, TAI General Manager Temel Kotil said they will work with British BAE Systems, which plays various roles in the design of F-35 aircraft. "We have foreseen a four-year period for the preliminary design phase. In this phase, the structure of the plane will be determined. The development of engineering, technology, testing infrastructures and certification processes of the aircraft and the acquisition of capability for the design of the fighter jet are steps of this phase," Kotil said.
He also explained that the first TF-X prototype should be ready for its first flight in 2023. "The TF-X is a fifth-generation invisible plane that can reach supersonic speeds with afterburners," Kotil said. "We want to get all of the kinks worked out and have it ready by 2029 and put into service for the Turkish Armed Forces in 2031."
As a result of the works in technology areas such as low appearance internal weapons bay, high maneuverability, enhanced situational awareness and sensor fusion, all of which should be included in the new generation aircraft, Turkey will, after the U.S., Russia and China, take its place among the countries in the world that have the infrastructure and technology to produce the fifth-generation fighter jet.
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