Turkey gearing up to build own stealth fighter - analysis

Turkey is the joining the ranks of India, South Korea and Japan in  both purchasing stealth fighters from abroad or develop its own, Sebastien Roblin says in an article he penned for national interest website.

While highlighting that in June the Turkish Air Force is set to receive the first of 30 of the highly anticipated F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters from the United States— despite efforts by members of Congress to block the sale due to growing foreign policy clashes and concerns over human rights - Roblin notes that Turkey has invested $175 million in the F-35’s development.

‘’However, in 2013 Turkey began seriously looking into developing its own TF-X stealth fighter as well. Initially, Turkey considered buying into Korea’s KF-X stealth aircraft program, but that fell through due to Seoul’s limited interested in sharing technology,’’Roblin says.

Turkey is looking to design its own stealth jet, for tactical and political reasons, the author points out, as the nation eyes an air superiority-focused fighter to complement the F-35s.

‘’Turkish government’s long running slide into authoritarianism and diverging foreign policy objectives with Europe and the United States have led politicians in both to begin opposing continued technology transfers. Turkey has even dangled the release of foreign political prisoners as a quid pro quo for arms transfers. The situation doubtlessly is reinforcing Ankara’s desire for an indigenous technological base and weapons systems that may be less disrupted by chilling relations with Europe and the United States,’’ Roblin says.

Accordingly, the Turkish manufacturer Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is expected to produce a flying TF-X prototype by 2023, with the first of an envisioned 250 production aircraft leaving the factory floor in 2029 and entering service in 2031, eventually replacing the Turkish Air Force’s fleet of 245 single-engine F-16 fighters.

TAI has thus far has only designed one manned airplane, which is the Hurkus, ‘’a turboprop two-seat trainer/light attack plane similar in concept to the Super Tucano.’’

Building a stealth plane, the author notes, will be a major leap for the company.