The tactical features of the TF-X are expected to be not inferior to the F-35.
Ankara has long had an ambition to own the 5th generation domestic fighter. TF-X – Turkish Fighter-Experimental also known as the National Fighter program, is a future aircraft model developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries in 2010. Since 2015, TAI has proposed at least three different configurations, including two designs with single engine and one with twin engines. Sputnik on June 18 reported that the Turkish Aviation Industry presented this fifth generation fighter model at the 2019 Paris Air Show.
The TF-X will replace the outdated F-16 C/D “Viper” fighter squadron, which was assembled in Turkey under a license from the Lockheed Martin Group of the United States. Ankara can spend up to 33 billion USD for the TF-X project. The prototype is expected to launch in 2023 – on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. The first flight will be conducted in 2025. By 2028 TF-X will be officially put into use. From 2032 the aircraft will be mass produced, serving in the Turkish air force at least until 2060.
In addition to cooperating with foreign companies such as Sweden’s Saab or British BAE Systems. Ankara plans to design its own engines, as well as weapons. In the immediate future, they will choose GE F-110 engine to equip T-FX before producing domestic engines themselves. Turkey may also rely on technology from defense contractors from US and UK to shorten development time. While not disclosing the tactical features of the TF-X, Turkey insists it will not be inferior to the F-35.
The TF-X will have two engines, each of which will be able to generate thrust up to more than 9,000 kg, equivalent to the F-35 aircraft engine. The tail is vertical, 20m long, the fuselage is narrower than F-35 and has a wingspan of 12m. TF-X will have a maximum speed of Mach 2, a maximum takeoff weight of 27 tons, a service ceiling of 18,000m and a combat radius of 1,300km.
According to TAI representatives, the development of TF-X aircraft is currently in a positive phase. The specifications of the aircraft are being updated and suppliers of various subsystems for the TF-X are also being sought by TAI. Rocketsan – Turkey’s largest weapons manufacturer is developing attack missiles for TF-X aircraft. BAE Systems, which partnered with TAI to develop TF-X, said the aircraft would be “the best fighter in Europe” and could be equipped with Meteor’s long-range, air-to-air missiles manufactured by MBDA.
In a surprise move, some Russian companies have also stated that they were ready to provide technology for the TF-X engine. Turkish defense officials confirmed that they are exploring this option and discussing potential cooperation models. Turkish President Erdogan, accompanied by Russian President Putin, were showcased the fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet at the MAKS 2019 international airshow in the Moscow region on 27 August 2019.
According to the Nation Interest military page, the TF-X looks great but the problem is money. It costs around $100 billion in total to develop, build and operate a fleet of a few dozen stealth fighters, according to an assessment by Japanese air force general Hideyuki Yoshioka, who in 2011 helped to oversee Japan’s own boutique stealth-fighter program.
To develop a stealth fighter is very expensive. The only three countries that can theoretically do so at great cost without turning into an economic crisis are the United States, China and Russia. In fact, only two countries, the United States and China have actually done it. The Russian Su-57 program has struggled with the cost to produce a modest number of aircraft. I personally think that Turkey, the 17th largest economy in the world, can hardly join the club of those “giants”.
In working on its own the 5th generation fighter, Ankara might simply be trying to prove to Washington that it can threaten the F-35’s near-monopoly on stealth-fighter exports, either by building a plane of its own or helping Russia to finish the Su-57.