Turkey’s defence projects hindered by ‘chronic engine problem’ - Defense News

Turkey’s continuing, over-decade-long saga to produce a fully indigenous engine is casting a shadow on its successful domestic defence programmes, according to government and industry officials.

The failure “at best the problem causes major delays, and at worst it can be an existential threat (to programmes),” a former defence industry chief told Defense News website.

The engine issue has delayed progress on other domestic defence projects, including the Altay tank, the new-generation TF-X fighter jet and several helicopter models, it said. 

Engine and transmission problems for the multi-billion-dollar Altay project alone have delayed BMC – a Qatari-Turkish joint venture that won the production contract for the new-generation tank – which was slated to complete its target goal of developing and constructing the first 250 tanks this year. 

But as it currently stands, even 2022 is an optimistic deadline, Defense News said, citing industry and procurement officials.

“Lack of a feasible power pack (engine and transmission) is depriving the programme of any sensible progress,” an industry source told the magazine.

Political reasons have kept Western countries with power pack technology, namely Germany, from sharing the technology with Turkey, Defense News said.

A number of Turkish companies have rolled up their sleeves to solve the country’s engine problem, including state-controlled Tusas Engine Industries (TEI).

Earlier this month, TEI announced that it successfully tested its domestically produced TJ300 miniature turbojet engine. Produced for medium-range anti-ship missiles, the engine features a thrust rating of 1.3 kilonewtons.

TEI officials maintain the TJ300’s more advanced versions could power larger anti-ship cruise missiles and land-attack cruise missiles, according to the website.

“The effort is about ending dependency on imported designs,” a TEI official told Defense News.

A unit of French company Safran, Microturbo, currency provides Turkey with miniature air-breathing engines to power its indigenous cruise missiles.

Turkey’s Kale Group is also working on a miniature turbojet engine, the KTJ-3200, Defence News said. The engine boasts a 3.2-kilonewton thrust rating and is set to power the Atmaca and SOM missile systems.

The conglomerate is also looking to develop an engine to power the TF-X down the line, it said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in November that Turkey’s TF-X fifth generation fighter jet would be ready for flight in the next five or six years, an overly ambitious timeline, according to Ahval contributor Paul Iddon.

Moreover, Turkey’s TEI is also developing a turboshaft engine it intends to power the T625 Gökbey, a utility and transport helicopter that made its maiden flight in September, Defence News said.

But Turkey’s efforts may fail to materialise without foreign support, Defence New said, citing a defence specialist who said the programmes may also come at a cost not conducive for mass production.