Turkish government-linked company delays national fighter jet project - report

Turkey's plans to develop the country's first national combat aircraft, the TF-X, have been postponed for at least two years after Turkish-Qatari defence manufacturer BMC failed to develop the jet’s engines, Cumhuriyet daily reported on Monday.

Turkey’s Kale Group and Rolls Royce had agreed to jointly develop engines for the TF-X with a $133 million deal signed in 2017. But the project ran into trouble after the British engine maker raised concerns about the management of intellectual property, and the involvement of BMC.

The Turkey-based vehicle and defence manufacturer BMC has been involved in several high-profile projects for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, including the country’s Altay national tank project.

BMC’s majority shareholder, Ethem Sancak, sits on the AKP’s executive board and is known as a close confidant of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Qatari armed forces own a 49.9 percent stake in the company.

Turkey brought BMC into the project in November 2018 after rejecting a bid from Rolls Royce, Cumhuriyet said.

However, the Turkish defence manufacturer has not achieved much since then, according to Cumhuriyet.

"Our target was 2023, but we have to delay our flight to a further date," Cumhuriyet quoted Turkish Defence Industry Director İsmail Demir as saying.

The deadline for the project was postponed to a date between 2025-2026, Demir said

The Altay project has also faced delays over “technological snags” that have set it back by at least 18 months, Defense News reported last week.

Erdoğan has made it a priority to develop Turkey’s national defence industry. The government has also put emphasis on indigenous defence projects after Turkey was expelled from U.S.-led joint programme for the production of F-35 fighter jets over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems.