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TF-X: Turkey’s Plan to Build Their Very Own ‘F-35’ Stealth Fighter

TF-X
TF-X fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Turkey is not happy about being kicked out of the F-35 program for buying Russian air-defense systems. So that means Turkey will try and build its own stealth fighter. Is that possible? Meet the TF-X:

Turkey and Pakistan are collaborating to design and produce a new fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft. The TF-X stealth twin-engine fighter was first announced in 2016, and the plane is now set to make its first flight in 2025. Turkish Aerospace Industries displayed a full-scale figure of the National Combat Aircraft this February at the Singapore Air Show.

The Top Fighter of the Islamic World

After Turkey went ahead with its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, Washington removed it from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan then turned to Pakistan to develop an alternative.

The TF-X is meant to replace the country’s aging F-16 fleet. Dubbed the “first big fighter of the Islamic world,” the new fifth-generation aircraft will improve Turkish-Pakistani defense ties and lessen Ankara’s dependence on U.S. airframes.

Similar to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, Turkey’s TF-X is a multi-role aircraft built for air-to-air missions. The fighter could also deploy for air-to-ground missions. The jet reportedly hosts cutting-edge radar, ground-attack capabilities, networked drone control, and an advanced internal weapons bay. Turkey’s new jet will have a wingspan of 12 meters and a maximum take-off weight of approximately 27,000 kilograms.

Equipped with advanced avionics, the TF-X will also feature voice recognition and multiple displays, as well as high-quality audio systems and graphic interfaces.

British engine maker Rolls-Royce initially agreed to collaborate with the Turkish defense company Kale Group to develop the fighter jet’s engine. This deal fell through in 2019, however, and Rolls-Royce’s participation remains uncertain. In order to meet roll-out deadlines set by Erdogan, Turkey opened a new engineering facility to streamline its production and design process. According to the Daily Sabah, the Composite Production Building will be Ankara’s largest, and “the world’s fourth largest composite complex.”

Regional Links

Since launching its Asia Anew initiative in 2019, Turkey has emerged as an important defense manufacturer in the region. Erdogan has improved ties with Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, and Malaysia through arms sales and other military collaborative efforts. This shift, bolstered by the joint Pakistani-Turkish fifth-generation fighter, could free Turkey from the need for U.S.-made military equipment in the future.

While improving relations with South Asian countries is important, Erdogan’s rationale for choosing Pakistan as its partner in fighter development is likely tied to China. Pakistan has received Chinese military exports for decades. The People’s Liberation Army has provided Islamabad with the technology to develop missiles, tanks, jets, and even submarines. Since the U.S. kicked Turkey out of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, Erdogan could be moving through Pakistan to arrive at China’s fighter jet technology.

Erdogan sees “the first big fighter of the Islamic world” as a Turkish victory. Its National Combat Aircraft will renew Ankara’s aging air arsenal and cement Turkey as the region’s defense manufacturer. Erdogan aims to make Turkey the Islamic powerhouse of the world, and the TF-X brings the Turkish president one step closer to that goal.

Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

Written By

Maya Carlin is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Bill in Houston

    June 16, 2022 at 9:20 am

    It’ll never happen. The Turks and especially the Pakistanis lack the technical knowledge and the resources to build more than a mockup.

    • Ataturk Turkic States

      June 21, 2022 at 9:12 pm

      Your arrogance will make Turks victorious.

    • Mustafa Sennaroglu

      July 11, 2022 at 3:46 am

      That’s what you people said about the Turkish drones Turkish electric vehicle TOGG and the nuclear power plant You made fun of the Turkish technologies saying the Turks don’t have the experience and knowledge and don’t know how to make anything. You made fun of TB2s saying it’s a toy but when it started to destroy the Russian pantsir The Russian s300s and the tanks you all shut up. Same thing with the Turkish TFX. God willing the TFX will be built. You say we don’t have the capabilities but What we have is the Will and this TFX will be built.

  2. Vienna

    June 16, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Okeyh bill the kkk kiddo. Might want to do your own research a bit.

  3. Soykan

    June 17, 2022 at 10:52 am

    Korkunun Ecele Faydası yok Kızıl Elma yı Dünya görecek yakında takip de kalın.

  4. James

    June 18, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    Some important facts that need to be clarified:

    (1) Pakistan is not a partner in Turkey’s TFX program

    (2) BAE Systems PLC is foreign technology partner in the program:

    See https://www.baesystems.com/en/article/bae-systems-signs-heads-of-agreement-for-a-future-contract-with-turkish-aerospace-industries-for-tf-x-programme

    (3) Many Turkish companies were sole source suppliers for the US F-35 program. Many USAF F-35’s fly with Advanced Composite Centre Fuselages produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries.

    (4) Turkish Aerospace has produced over 300 F-16’s under licence and has alot of experience with fighter production.

    (5) TUSAS Engine Industries also produces several indigenous Turbojet engines like the TS-1400 and TF-6000. It also license produces the GE F110 engines.

  5. 7anissary

    June 21, 2022 at 11:55 am

    Wow, I’m turkish citizen but not even once heard of “the first big fighter of the Islamic world” shit here in my country.

    Thanks for revealing your subconscious hostility and for the half-assed report.

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