The TF-X will be integrated from the cockpit to accompanying UAV’s through encrypted datalink connections.
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 reported that the Turkish Aviation Industry presented this fifth generation fighter model at the 2019 Paris Air Show.
This new aircraft will replace the outdated fighter fleet of F-16 “Viper” manufactured in Turkey under the license of Lockheed Martin. Ankara can spend up to $33 billion on the TF-X project, which is expected to launch the first prototype in 2023 – on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey.
The first flight will be conducted in 2025, in 2028 it will be put into use, and from 2032 it will be mass production. The fighter is expected to serve in the Turkish air force until at least 2060.
Alternative for the F-35
Observers say the introduction of this fighter is Ankara’s response to the failure of the US F-35 purchase contract. Turkey had hoped to buy 100 F-35s, but the deal was discontinued because it bought Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
In addition to cooperating with foreign companies such as Sweden’s Saab or British BAE Systems, Ankara plans to design the engine themself, as well as develop weapons for the TF-X. In the immediate future, they will choose the General Electric F110 engine to equip the T-FX before producing domestic engines themselves.
Turkey can also use technologies from US and British defense contractors to shorten development time. Although not disclosing the tactical features of the TF-X, Turkey insists it will not be inferior to the F-35.
TAI has stated that all three conceptual designs thus far feature a design optimized for low radar cross-sectional density, internal weapons bays, and the ability to supercruise; features associated with fifth-generation fighter jets.
TAI’s Advanced Carbon Composites fuselage facility, which was commissioned to produce fuselages for Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter program, has been tasked with developing an Advanced Carbon Composite fuselage for the TF-X. The Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries has also issued a tender for the development of a new lighter carbon composite thermoplastic for the TF-X fuselage.
Military.com reported in Paris that the fighter model was introduced with a twin engine, each of which will be able to generate up to more than 27,000 pound of thrust, equivalent to the aircraft engine F-35. However, many are not surprised by this similarity because TAI is the sub-contractor for Northrop Grumman to build the mid-body of the F-35.
The tail is quite similar to F-35 but the body is narrow and the wingspan is wider. The single-seat fighter jet has a length of 21m, wingspan of 14m, the height is 6m and the wing area up to 60 square meters.
According to Defense News, the TF-X fighter will have a maximum speed of Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, maximum takeoff weight over 27t, a ceiling of 17,000 meters and a combat radius of 1,100 km.
New generation electronic equipment
The TF-X will be integrated from the cockpit to accompanying UAV’s through encrypted datalink connections. The aircraft will likely use upgraded variants of Aselsan’s own radar warning receiver, missile warning system, laser warning system, chaff and flare management, dispensing system and digital radio frequency memory based jamming system, which already deployed with the other air platforms.
ASELSAN is currently developing an advanced Active electronically scanned array radar which will use gallium nitride technology for the TF-X program.
According to TAI’s 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, the Turkey’s largest weapons manufacturer is developing attack missiles for TF-X aircraft.
The 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.
What future is there for the TF-X program?
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.
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