May 02 2018

Russians want to help develop first Turkish fighter jet

Russian companies are interested in developing an engine for the TF-X, Turkey’s first locally-developed fighter jet, Turkish procurement officials have said.

“There is a Russian interest in this regard, but it is too premature to say if the idea would gain further ground,” the Defense News website quoted a Turkish procurement official as saying.

Ankara has made investment in Turkey’s defence industry a priority, and Turkish defence firms have been developing projects worth billions of dollars, including Turkish-built fighter jets as well as advanced unmanned combat aerial vehicals.

Turkey’s relations with its traditional strategic allies in NATO have faced a marked downturn in recent years, with hostile rhetoric flowing both ways and impasses springing up over Ankara’s policy in Syria, where the United States and France support Turkey’s bitter opponents in the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a satellite of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Russia has made the most of the disputes within NATO, and Turkey’s drift towards Moscow has seen the countries cooperate on Syria, in a project to build Turkey’s first nuclear power station, and in the controversial purchase by Ankara of Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

“A Turkish diplomat said Turkey’s political ties with Russia were ‘excellent,’ adding that the current political ties paved the way for deeper military and procurement cooperation,” said the Defense News article.

The development of an engine for the TF-X could be undertaken by the Russian defence conglomerate Rostec. A director of the company told press at the Eurasia Air Show in the southern Turkish city of Antalya that a proposal for an engine was being put together.

While the TF-X project still awaits a critical endorsement from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, two of Turkey’s largest defence firms, Aselsan and Turkish Aerospace Industries, have already signed a memorandum agreeing to share work on the project, for the design of which the Turkish government has earmarked $1.178 billion.

“After formal go-ahead from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the program would race ahead, procurement officials say. The TF-X and other major indigenous development programs are Erdogan’s pet projects,” said the article.

The choice of engine will be made in the next phase of the project after the conceptual design is complete.