Turkey set to finalise national jet plans with Rolls Royce

Turkey and engine manufacturer Rolls Royce will finalise negotiations on an engine design program for the country’s first homemade jet fighter by July 31, the TF-X, Burak Ege Bekdil wrote for Defense News on Tuesday.

The Turkish and UK governments’ defence procurement agencies signed the letter of intent to finalise negotiations on May 15, during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s state visit to the UK.

The ambitious project aims to replace the Turkish Air Force’s current fleet of F-16s with the indigenously made TF-X fighter jets, alongside F-35 fighter jets that Turkey is expected to buy from the United States.

Erdoğan’s May visit to the UK, where he met the Queen as well as Prime Minister Theresa May, was looked on coldly by the British public. But for a UK government anxious to hang on to trade opportunities with the prospect of Brexit looming, the lucrative deals promised by Turkey meant business as usual and the continuation of what one Turkish minister called a special relationship between the countries.

A foothold in the “juicy” project to build the fighters, over 200 of which are planned for the mid-2020s and which may also be exported, is a boon for the UK’s defence industry as it would help the UK “maintain an irreplaceable combat aircraft design capability”, according to Aerospace magazine’s chief editor Tim Robinson.

The UK has already been involved in the TF-X program since January 2017, when Turkey announced that it had agreed a £100 million design deal with British defence firm BAE.

The deal with Rolls Royce will see the jet’s engine developed and co-produced in Turkey using foreign technology.

Turkey and Rolls Royce will look to resolve issues including “export licenses, restrictions, technology transfers and know-how, local work share, intellectual property rights, and development costs” before the July deadline, Defense News quoted a Turkish procurement official as saying.