Turkey to focus on own combat aircraft after F-35 expulsion - Yeni Şafak

Turkey’s expulsion from the programme to jointly produce F-35 stealth fighter jets will boost efforts to develop a Turkish combat aircraft in cooperation with European manufacturers, according to a defence policy analyst.

The United States announced its decision on Wednesday to expel Turkey from the F-35 programme as a result Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence missiles that U.S. officials say would allow Moscow to collect data on the defences of NATO aircraft. That will hurt Turkish defence companies and likely U.S. economic sanctions will hit the broader economy.

Defence analyst Turan Oğuz told the pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper the U.S. move would spur Turkish efforts to develop its own fighter jets. 

Turkey plans to replace its existing F-16 aircraft with the TF-X National Combat Aircraft being developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). The mock up of the aircraft was introduced at the Paris Air Show last month. Turkey’s Kale Group and Rolls Royce were to jointly develop engines for the TF-X according to a $133 million deal signed in 2017, but the British engine maker announced in March that it had scaled back the project.

Turkey also has ongoing projects to develop close air support and light attack aircraft, Oğuz said, and could acquire fighter jets from sellers other than the United States, if the military decided the Turkish projects were not sufficient for its urgent needs. 

But Oğuz said Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 programme would intensify efforts to develop the TF-X. He said Washington had not pressured other NATO countries to impose sanctions on Turkey over its S-400 purchase and Ankara could therefore boost cooperation with European companies. 

The lack of F-35 jets would have the most serious consequences on the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship, TCG Anadolu, the analyst said. Without F-35B jets, Turkey would not be able to deploy aircraft on the TCG Anadolu he said.