Turkey prioritises TF-X fighter jet after F-35 expulsion

Turkey is focusing on the production of its indigenous TF-X fighter jet, as the country’s expulsion from the U.S.-led F-35 stealth fighter programme has dealt an estimated blow of $1.4 billion to the local industry, analyst Burak Ege Bekdil wrote for Defense News website on Tuesday.

The United States removed Turkey from the fifth generation aircraft’s development project in July 2019, following Ankara’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems, despite Washington’s objections over NATO security. The official notification on Turkey’s ejection arrived in late April this year.

Bekdil recalled that the President of Turkey’s Defence Industries İsmail Demir said the indigenous jet’s production would take priority, during an interview on April 30.

Turkish companies are still producing parts for the F-35, but won’t be able to after next year, when the current contracts will expire, he added.

State-owned Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) aims to fly the aircraft in 2025, Bekdil said. TAI CEO Temel Kotil, a long-term ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said the indigenous jet programme was set to receive an additional $1.3 billion of government investment and that 6,000 engineers were working on the program currently.

Turkey’s efforts to increase military production began in 2010 and accelerated after 2016, journalist Bahadır Özgür wrote.

According to Özgür, defence contracts increased to $60 billion in revenue in 2018 from $10 billion in 2002, when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power. In 2018, Turkey’s defence exports amounted to $3 billion.