Mar 04 2018

Turkey eyes naval fighter aircraft

Turkey is planning to order F-35B fighter aircraft to equip what Zachary Keck from the Non-proliferation Policy Education Center describes as an “aircraft carrier in disguise”, in an article in the National Enquirer.

The F-35B is a naval version of the F-35A, produced as part of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. It is optimized for short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) enabling it to operate from ships that lack a long runway.

If Turkey does order F-35Bs, it may operate them from a Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD)/Amphibious Assault Ship, TCG Anadolu, currently under construction. When completed, the vessel will displace 28,000 tons fully loaded and measure 225 meters long. Both Japan and South Korea have been working on similar plans.

Turkey may also have more ambitious plans for any F-35Bs it orders. In July last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the country intends to build a full scale aircraft carrier, which would be able to operate more of the aircraft than ship such as TCG Anadolu.

Ankara’s interest in the F-35B is a sign of its growing interest in augmenting the ability of its naval forces to conduct overseas operations. It is currently setting up military bases in Qatar and Somalia.

Turkey is already committed to the JSF project, aiming to replace its aging fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft with 100 F-35As, a conventional (non-STOVL) version of the F-35.