Turkey to select foreign engine for local fighter

Turkey to select foreign engine for local fighter

Burak Bekdil
Turkey to select foreign engine for local fighter

An F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter takes off on a training sortie. Turkey has ordered two F-35s in May and plans to acquire 100 evetually, while working on developing a local program. REUTERS photo

Turkey’s aerospace industry and procurement authorities have decided to first choose a foreign-made engine for the indigenous fighter jet that the country’s local industry will develop, and then finalize its design.

A senior aide of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkish scientists had decided that choosing the engine and then proceeding with the program would be the best way. 

“So we’ll first choose the engine that will power the TF-X [the proposed Turkish fighter] and develop the aircraft based on that engine,” the official said. 

Earlier this year, Turkey’s defense procurement agency, the Undersecretary for Defense Industry (SSM) wrote to three engine makers — GE, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce — asking them to propose a suitable engine for the TF-X.

An SSM official said Ankara would most likely select an engine before the end of the year. “That decision will be followed by the launch of the first phase of the development stage,” he said. 

Earlier in June, Pratt & Whitney, at a high profile ceremony, inaugurated its Turkish partnership with local aviation company Kale to produce critical engine parts for the F-35.

Kale Pratt & Whitney, the joint venture, will manufacture the parts of the F-135 and the engine for the F-35, at the plant in İzmir on Turkey’s Aegean coast.

Pratt & Whitney has a 51 percent share in the joint venture while the Turkish company holds the remaining 49 percent, company officials said. The $75 million investment will employ an initial 700 workers. 

Turkey hopes to build the TF-X by 2023, the Republic’s centennial. 

Turkish jets ‘to cover weaknesses of F-35’

Defense officials say the Turkish fighter fleet by then will comprise of the TF-X and the new generation F-35. They say a combination of the Turkish fighter and the multinational F-35 will ensure sufficient firepower and deterrence. 

Experts often say the F-35 has some weaknesses in air-to-air combat, but the TF-X would compensate. 

Turkey in May officially decided to order the country’s first two F-35s. The order is for the first F-35A aircraft with Block-3F configuration under Low Rate Initial Production-10.

Turkey joined the multinational F-35 program as a consortium partner during the concept demonstration phase in 1999.

In January 2013, Turkey had indefinitely put off a decision to order the first two F-35s, citing unpredictable costs and technical snags.

But procurement officials say the country’s commitment to eventually acquire 100 F-35s remains.

Meanwhile, Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) already has finished the pre-conceptual design work and produced three draft models, one of which would become the first

Turkish indigenous fighter jet. For the pre-conceptual design work, the TAI extensively cooperated with Sweden’s Saab, maker of the Gripen, a lightweight single-engine multirole fighter. Turkey plans to eventually buy 100 to 150 of the TF-X.