(Not even) the sky is the limit!

(Not even) the sky is the limit!

Here is a simple chronology of events that will eventually make Turkey one of the few most advanced countries in the world that can build their own fighter jets.

2002: (Quoting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in January 2015): “Turkey needs Israel even to just have its battle tanks repaired.”

2004: Turkey launches an ambitious program to design, develop and manufacture an indigenous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone), the Anka. The Anka will be the first ever 100 percent Turkish aircraft (although it would feature foreign landing gear, take-off and landing systems, mission computer, and engine — in addition to its Persian name).

2010: Then defense minister, Vecdi Gönül, announces that the government has officially pushed the button to launch feasibility studies on a landmark program for the design, development and manufacturing of what would become the first 100 percent Turkish fighter aircraft.

2011: The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) election billboards proudly show the Anka flying gallantly. The slogan on top of the billboards says: “Our first aircraft is in the skies!” The billboard does not mention that the “skies” in the photo are just photoshop.

2012: A real breakthrough in Turkish aerospace industry emerges: In an international competition with 249 contestants from 83 countries, the Turkish team — competing with an all-Turkish airplane — wins the team trophy in the Red Bull Paper Airplane Finals, in the “longest airtime” category.

2013: One of the two prototypes of the Anka, sadly, crashes.

2014: The other Anka prototype is stationed at an air base in Batman in southeastern Turkey. But it is not operational, despite the fact that an original timetable promised that three Ankas would be operational by 2013.

2014: The second historical breakthrough in the Turkish aerospace industry emerges: A consortium of companies, including the national carrier, Turkish Airlines, inaugurates a giant step toward building the indigenous Turkish fighter jet. The super-technology joint venture says it will be designing, developing and manufacturing the world’s first “Made in Turkey” airplane seats. Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek proudly announces: “Don’t underestimate an air seat. This is a very important step. We had to start from somewhere in order to produce our own airplane.” Thundering applause. Nobody underestimates the great leap forward.

January 2015: After a meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee — the top panel that decides on multibillion dollar arms acquisition deals - Prime Minister Davutoğlu announces that the government has decided to move on to the pre-concept design phase in the national fighter jet program. The feasibility studies into the program had been finally concluded after about five years.

January 2015: Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz announces that Turkey will invest a further about $20 billion in the national fighter jet program.

January 2015: The Anka remains “un-operational,” but its builders are at work on its more advanced version, the “Anka S” - the model that has been designed for serial production.

January 2015: Davutoğlu once again promises that the year 2023, the centennial of the Turkish Republic, will see a mighty country that has produced and flied its own fighter jet, “as Turkey has already reached the pre-concept design for its own aircraft.”

January 2015: Turkey’s defense procurement officials are preparing to place a follow-on order to buy a batch of the KT-1, a Korean-made basic trainer aircraft, while Turkey’s own program to produce a similar aircraft is —theoretically — “in progress.”

The stories of the Anka and Hürkuş do not look like the best omen for the future of the Turkish aerospace industry. But the neo-Ottomans are thriving. Paper airplanes and airplane seats today; who knows, maybe even tray tables and seat belts tomorrow. As the finance minister said, “never underestimate airplane seats.” The next crucial step in building the first ever indigenous Turkish fighter jet should be to produce oxygen masks and headsets for airplane passengers. Never underestimate…