Typhoon fighter jet – Image courtesy of Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug.
By Victor BarreiraPer occasion of the official visit paid by British Prime Minister Theresa May to Ankara, the United Kingdom’s defence contractor BAE Systems and Turkish leading state-controlled aerospace company Türk Havacılık ve Uzay Sanayii A.Ş. (TUSAŞ) signed on 28 January a Heads of Agreement with the aim to collaborate on the first development phase of an advanced fighter jet for the Turkish Air Force Command, the so-called Turkish fighter development programme or TF-X. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also attended the signing event as well as other local political, industry and military officials. The agreement is non-binding and will only be obligatory when contracts are signed. It builds upon a pre-contract study phase between both the companies.
When format contracts are set up, the British firm will start to assist TUSAŞ in the design activity to develop future first locally developed fighter jet. It is aimed at to replace the existing Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet after 2020.
Few have been revealed on the T-FX programme. It is not known if the aircraft will be a completely new design or an advanced version of a current aircraft to meet Turkish requirements. The program which will enable the NATO country to obtain a certain degree of independency in such type of critical military technologies also will open the door to the involvement of a comprehensive number of other Turkish companies, including major state-controlled firms such as Aselsan, HAVELSAN, Roketsan and TUSAŞ Motor Sanayii.
The Turkish armament procurement organization, the SSM (Savunma Sanayii Müsteşarlığı) released a request for information (RFI) in 2015 for the program, and several aerospace manufacturers have replied the call, including BAE Systems, Airbus Defence & Space, Saab Aeronautics, Leonardo, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Shenyang Aircraft Corpora. In August 2016, TUSAŞ was awarded a contract by the SSM for modernization, overhauling of the existing test and production infrastructure to support TF-X programme.
BAE Systems together with Airbus Defence & Space and Leonardo manufacture the Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug Typhoon fighter jet. It is currently fielded by the air forces of Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Austria and Saudi Arabia and it has been ordered by Oman and Kuwait.
The modern frontline combat fleet of Turkish Air Force is today formed by F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet of different versions, with several having been modernized by TUSAŞ. The SSM has also ordered initial Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jets.
Image courtesy of Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug.