5th Generation Fighters and the TF-X Program

Since the 1990s Fighter Jets have been classified and categorized in ‘generations’ from technology perspective, with each new generation reflecting a major advance in technology and capability

Issue 81

The term ‘generations’ applies to only jets rather than propeller driven fighter aircraft. During the 2000s Aerospace companies have also preferred to use generation-based categorization in order to differentiate between ‘old’ and ‘new’, fighter jet designs and capabilities and in a short time the notion of aircraft generations has turned into a marketing terminology. Lockheed Martin, for example, has labelled the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter a “fifth-generation” fighter in 2005, a term it borrowed from Russia in 2004 to describe the F-22. As a powerful marketing tool, the term ‘fifth-generation’ has been applied to the F-22 and F-35 aircraft, to underline that competing companies could not offer similar levels of performance and technological capabilities.  

However, even the ‘generations’ are supposed to be defined by new game-changing capabilities, since the evolving combat capabilities and requirements blur generational lines there is no clearly defined line between successive generations. Generational shift in fighter jets occurs when a technological innovation cannot be incorporated into an existing aircraft generation through upgrades and retrofits. Among the generational lines focus is shifting from platform to system-of-systems and each generation represents certain class of technology used in the fighter jet such as avionics, software, construction materials, network capability, engines, etc. A higher generation means a more technologically advanced platform.

Since there is no central authority giving out these designations, there is no accepted or objective definition of aircraft generations therefore the exact characteristics of the fighter jet generations are controversial and vague. Never the less we can summarize, or define the various generations of jet-powered fighter aircraft as follows: 

First-Generation (mid 1940s to mid 1950s)

Generally, this refers to the introduction of subsonic fighter jets, first introduced in late World War II and with jet engines and gun armament such as the F-86 and MiG-15. A common characteristic of this generation of fighter jet was that the jet engines did not have afterburners and the aircraft operated in the subsonic regime.

Second-Generation (mid-1950s to early 1960s)

This generation is generally considered the mid 1950’s to early 1960’s, when afterburning turbojet engines entered production. The second-generation fighters saw the introduction of air-to-air radar, tail-aspect IR and semi-active radar guided missiles, as well as radar warning receivers into such aircraft as the F-104, F-5, MiG-19 and MiG-21.

Third-Generation (early 1960s to 1970)

The 1960s to approximately 1970 produced aircraft with increased maneuverability and ground attack capabilities, combined with the introduction of guided missiles. The F-4 Phantom and MiG-23 are examples of third-generation aircraft. Doppler radar supported a ‘lookdown/shoot-down’ capability, and with off-bore-sight targeting and semi-active radar guided missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow and AA-7 Apex, aerial engagements moved to beyond visual range. The major change brought about by this generation aircraft was that it was no longer necessary to visually acquire opponents to neutralize them and gain control of the air.

Fourth-Generation (1970 to mid-1990s)

Between approximately 1970 and the mid-1990s, aircraft were characterized by their multi-role configurations and equipped with sophisticated avionics and weapons systems. Common characteristics of this generation of fighter jets were; 9G capability, turbofan engine, HUD, glass cockpit, computer technology, thrust to weight ratio of 1.1 or more and multi-target engagement capability. The F/A-18A Hornet, MiG-29, Su-27, F-16C/D and JAS-39 are examples of the fourth-generation fighter aircraft. 

Four-and-a-half Generation (mid-1990s to 2005)

The terms fourth-plus or four-and-a-half generation have been used to encompass fourth-generation aircraft with fifth-generation capabilities. This generation of aircraft from the mid-1990’s until 2005 are often modified fourth-generation aircraft with significantly enhanced capabilities. The US FY2010 Defense Authorization Act defined four-and-a-half generation as current aircraft, including the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18, that have advanced capabilities, including active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, high capacity data-links and enhanced avionics, and have the ability to deploy current and reasonably foreseeable advanced armaments. They are commonly identified by signature reduction, helmet-mounted sights, GPS-guided weapons and highly integrated systems. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-16E/F/V, JAS-39N, F-15E/SA, Rafale, EuroFighter, MiG-35 and Su-35 are examples of a four-and-a-half generation fighter aircraft. 

Fifth-Generation (2005 to date)

Combining new developments such as thrust vectoring, composite materials, super cruise (the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds without using engine afterburners), stealth technology, advanced radar and fully integrated avionics and sensors, the fifth-generation fighter aircraft are characterized by low observability (including the use of internal weapons bays), vastly improved situational awareness through a network-centric combat environment and the design ability to act as an integrated data node. The era of the 5th Generation Fighter Jet was ushered in with the introduction of the USAF F-22 Raptor air superiority platform in 2005. Several Fifth Generation Fighters are in development including the US F-35 Lightning II, Chinese J-20 and J-35, the Russian T-50/Su-57 PAK-FA, Korean KF-X and the Turkish TF-X. 

As of March 2018, the only fully-operational and combat ready, Fifth-Generation Fighters are; the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, which entered service with the USAF in 2005; the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which entered service in 2015 and the Chengdu J-20, which entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in September 2017. Whereas, the Sukhoi Su-57/T-50 is scheduled to enter Russian Air Force service in 2019. The KF-X, Shenyang J-31 and TF-X are currently under early stages of development process.

In order to minimize their Radar Cross Section (RCS), all fifth-generation fighters use chines instead of standard leading-edge extensions and lack canards, and they all have twin canted vertical tails (similar to a V-tail) also to minimize side RCS. Most fifth-generation fighters features super maneuverability that achieved through thrust vectoring capability on the engines. All fifth-generation fighters have internal weapon bays in order to avoid high RCS weapon pylons, but they all also able to fitted with external hard-points on their wings for use on non-stealthy missions, such as the external fuel tanks the F-22 carries when deploying to a new theatre. All fifth-generation fighters have a high percentage of composite materials, in order to reduce RCS and weight. All known fifth-generation designs have extensive electronic warfare systems. Thanks to their great radar (AESA) and sensor fusion features and all-aspect stealth characteristics the fifth-generation aircraft can perform their mission anywhere, even in sophisticated integrated air defense environments. Their all-aspect, day/night low observability (stealth) feature minimizes their exposure and susceptibility to enemy’s advanced SAM systems and allows them to hold enemy targets at risk and to engage air threats before detection. Stealth feature provides fifth-generation fighter jets first look, first shot and first kill advantage over their older generation adversaries. Due to their network-centric combat capabilities the fifth-generation fighter jets will be able to operate together in a ‘combat cloud’ along with future unmanned combat aircraft (UCAVs).

So, 5th generation fighters provide air superiority and global precision attack against today’s, and tomorrow’s air and ground threats.



Fifth-Generation Fighters

F-22 Raptor 

F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation single-seat, twin engine (F119 turbofans), all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed by the Lockheed Martin for the USAF. F-22 Raptor production began in 1994. During Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase, nine F-22s were delivered. The first EMD phase F-22, named Raptor 4001, was unveiled at Marietta, Georgia, on April 9, 1997. However, due to software and mechanical delays the series’ first flight was pushed until September 7, 1997. Second F-22 flew on June 29, 1998.

The first combat-capable Block 3.0 aircraft first flew in 2001. In August of 2001, the United States Department of Defense (US DoD) ordered a full low-rate production. In 2004, the F-22 completed its Operational Test and Evaluation Centre Program with the USAF, which led directly to Full Rate Production being achieved in 2oo5. The first operational F-22 squadron was formed in 2005 with the F-22A officially entered USAF service on December 15, 2005. In April 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessed the F-22’s cost to be US$361 million per aircraft, with US$28 Billion invested in development and testing. As of late 2010, there have been 168 of the 187 contracted F-22s delivered to the USAF at a cost of US$143 Million to US$150 Million.  The last F-22 was delivered to the USAF in 2012. The F-22 was in production for 15 years, at a rate of roughly two per month during peak production. The F-22 was designed for a lifespan of 30 years and 8,000 flight hours.

Thanks to its unmatched speed, altitude and maneuverability the F-22 Raptor is optimized for air dominance and provides uncompromised air-to-air performance. F-22 Raptor can internally carry twice the air-to-air ordnance (6 AIM-120 + 2 AIM-9 vs 4 AIM-120) of an F-35A. 

F-22 Raptor is powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 thrust vectoring turbofan engines each delivering up to 35,000lbs of full thrust. When running on normal thrust conditions, the F-22 does not leave a noticeable smoke trail with its double-engine arrangement. The engines further provide the F-22 with a top speed of over 1,500 miles per hour (Mach 2.25) at altitude and, when on super cruise, the F-22 can hit speeds of 1,200 miles per hour (Mach 1.8). Operation range is reportedly at 2,000 miles with a combat radius of 470 miles - more so with external fuel stores in place. The F-22 can hit a service ceiling of 65,000 feet and up to 9G of gravitational force. Internal fuel volume (18,030lbs) is stored across eight tanks that are filled with nitrogen to reduce the danger present from combustible fuel fumes.

In addition to its stealth-minded loadout, the F-22 can carry external ordnance at the expense of a greater radar signature. 4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles can be fitted as pairs across two outboard underwing hard-points for a grand total of twelve missiles (eight internally and four externally). 2 x 600 US gallon Drop tanks for increased operational ranges can be fitted on inboard underwing hard-points as well - this to serve the F-22 well in long loitering times or lengthy interception sorties.

Despite its origins as an air dominance fighter, the F-22 has evolved into a dual-role mount capable of precision strike sorties through the utilization of air-to-surface weaponry. A standard outfit is 2 x AIM-9 and 2 x AIM-120 air-to-air missiles for self-defense along with 2 x 1,000lb JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) laser-guided bombs for ground strikes.

The F-22 is fitted with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-77 AESA radar system and an integrated BAE Systems AN/ALR-94 Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and Lockheed Martin AN/AAR-56 IR and UV Missile Launch Detector (MLD). The radar can acquire the most potent threat to the aircraft and engage within 135 miles providing for a “first-shot, first-kill” approach - this without the enemy not even spotted the F-22. The AN/ALR-94 RWR’s range (250nm+) exceeds the AN/APG-77 AESA radar’s range and can be used as a passive detection system capable of searching targets and providing enough information for a radar lock on.

Compared to previous stealth designs like the F-117, the F-22 is less reliant on Radar Absorbent Material (RAM), which are maintenance-intensive and susceptible to adverse weather conditions. Unlike the B-2, which requires climate-controlled hangars, the F-22 can undergo repairs on the flight line or in a normal hangar. The F-22’s exact RCS is classified; however, in 2009 Lockheed Martin released information indicating it has an RCS (from certain angles) of −40dBsm (decibel relative to one square meter), equivalent to the radar reflection of a “steel marble”.

F-22 Raptor stealth fighters took part in Operation Inherent Resolve, military intervention performed against ISIL both in Syria and Iraq. Operation Inherent Resolve was launched on 22 September 2014 and the F-22s performed the type’s first combat sorties during the US led intervention in Syria. By January 2015, the F-22 accounted for three percent of USAF sorties during Operation Inherent Resolve. Until May 28, 2017 some 1,150 F-22 sorties had been flown of which 497 were Close Air Support (CAS) sorties, with the F-22 fighters delivering GBU-32 JDAM precision-guided munitions and GBU-39 SDB (Small Diameter Bomb) glide munitions. During 497 CAS sorties F-22 fighters delivered a total of 1,572 munitions. Since it is practically invisible, the F-22 Raptor was able to operate almost freely throughout Syria, despite the threat imposed by the state-of-the-art Russian-made air-defence systems – an impressive accomplishment in itself. During Operation Inherent Resolve F-22 is used as a multirole platform, namely – as a strike fighter and not just as an air superiority fighter.

F-35 Lightning II

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, fifth-generation multirole fighter aircraft. F-35 will be manufactured in three versions: a conventional-take-off-and-landing (CTOL) variant for the US Air Force, an aircraft-carrier version (CV) for the US Navy, and a short-take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) version for the US Marine Corps and the UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Three variants of the F-35 will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the US Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the US Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least ten other countries. 

The F-35 Lightning II Program has experienced a number of cost overruns and developmental delays. By 2014, the program was US$163 billion over budget and seven years behind schedule.

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program was started on November 16th, 1996. Boeing has offered X-32 and Lockheed Martin has offered X-35. The X-35A completed its first flight on October 24th, 2000, the carrier X-35C went airborne for the first time on December 16th, 2000 and the X-35B achieved first flight on June 24th, 2001. Following an intense four-year competition, the US Department of Defense on October 26, 2001, named the Lockheed Martin lead Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] Team as the winner of the contract to develop the F-35 Lightning II. Lockheed Martin is the F-35 prime contractor, while Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are principal partners in the project. The F-35 team immediately entered the program’s System Development and Demonstration (SDD) Phase. 

Nine nations have partnered in the F-35’s SDD Phase: The United States (USAF 1.763 F-35As, DoN 693 F-35B/Cs), United Kingdom (RAF/RN 138 F-35Bs), Italy (60 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs), the Netherlands (37 F-35As), Turkey (100 F-35As), Canada (65 F-35As), Denmark (27 F-35As), Norway (52 F-35As), and Australia (100 F-35As). International partners of the Program have agreed to contribute US$4.375 Billion towards development costs. There are three levels of international participation. The levels generally reflect financial stake in the program, the amount of technology transfer and subcontracts open for bid by national companies, and the order in which countries can obtain production aircraft. The UK is the sole ‘Level 1’ partner, contributing US$2.5 Billion.

Turkey as a ‘Level 3’ partner contributes US$195 Million. In May 2013, Lockheed Martin declared that Turkey is projected to earn US$12 Billion from licensed production of F-35 components. So far, Turkey has placed an order for a total of 30 F-35As. 2 in Lot 10, 4 in Lot 11 and in October 2016 Turkey Defense Industrial Executive Committee approved the Block Buy for further 24 F-35As over three contract years. Turkey will take delivery of first two F-35As in June 2018 in the US (at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where TurAF pilots will perform training on the aircraft, maintainers will receive their training at Eglin Air Base). The first two F-35As will arrive in Turkey in 2019. Located in Malatya, the 7th Main Jet Base will be the first main Operating Base of the Turkish Air Force. 172nd and 171st Squadrons will receive the F-35As. Israel and Singapore have joined the Program as Security Cooperative Participants (SCP). Israel has ordered 50 F-35As, Japan has ordered 42 F-35A and South Korea has ordered 40 F-35As. Israel declared IOC for the F-35I “Adir” in December 2017. Total development costs are estimated at more than US$40 Billion. The purchase of an estimated 2,400 aircraft is expected to cost an additional US$200 Billion.

The first production F-35A (AA-1) Lightning II rolled out of the assembly in Fort Worth, Texas, in February of 2006 and achieved first flight on December 15th, 2006. Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) for the F-35A/B was approved in April 2007 with an order for two CTOL aircraft. An LRIP 2 contract for six CTOL aircraft was placed in July 2007. The STOVL F-35B was rolled out in December 2007 and made its first flight, a conventional take-off and landing, in June 2008. STOVL flights began in early 2009. An LRIP contract for six F-35B STOVL aircraft was placed in July 2008. The F-35C took off on its first flight in November 2011.

During 12-year SDD Phase Flight Test Program, the Team has built a total of 22 test aircraft. Fourteen underwent flight-testing, seven were used for non-airborne test activities, and one was used to evaluate the F-35’s radar signature. 

The F-35 was supposed to complete its SDD Phase and begun its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) by August, 2017. SDD certification means the aircraft is in a mature state of development with demonstrated capabilities in live-fire exercises. 

On April 11, 2018 at US Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, Navy test aircraft CF-2 completed the final developmental test flight of the SDD Phase of the JSF Program. According to Lockheed Martin, a team of over a thousand SDD flight test engineers, maintainers, pilots, and support personnel completed full flight-envelope tests on all three variants of the F-35, including six at-sea detachments with over 1,500 vertical landing tests for the F-35B, 183 Weapon Separation Tests, 46 Weapons Delivery Accuracy tests, and 33 Mission Effectiveness tests that included multi-ship missions with eight F-35s taking on advanced threats. One remarkable aspect of this testing program was that it didn’t involve a loss of either a single pilot or airframe. Under the developmental flight test program more than 9,200 sorties, accumulating over 17,000 flight hours, have been conducted and more than 65,000 test points have been executed to verify the design, durability, software, sensors, weapons capability and performance for all three F-35 variants. Now that the SDD phase has been completed, the F-35 needs to pass through an Operational Test and Evaluation before the US Department of Defense can give the go-ahead for full-scale production, starting with the Block 3F capability being cleared for operations.

On July 31, 2015, the United States Marines declared ready for deployment the first F-35B squadron after intensive testing. On August 2016, the USAF declared its first squadron of F-35A fighters combat-ready. The Pentagon targeted Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the F-35C between August 2018 and February 2019.

Under the F-35 Lightning II Program the first production model of the F-35 Lightning II (F-35A known as AF-6) conducted its first flight on February 25, 2011 and aircraft deliveries also started in 2011. As of April 2018 over 28o F-35 Lightning II aircraft has been delivered to US and international customers, 130.000 cumulative flight hours have been surpassed, more than 580 pilots and 5.600 maintainers have been trained. Under LRIP-10 a total of 358 F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft in three versions have been ordered. Lockheed Martin has delivered 66 F-35 in 2017 and plans to deliver 91 in 2018, 130 in 2019, 145 in 2020, 150 in 2021 and 2022 and 160+ in 2023. F-35 will remain in the service until 2077.

On February 28, 2018 Wednesday at a round-table event Vice Adm. Mat WINTER, director of the F-35 Joint Program Office, told reporters that of the 280 operational F-35s purchased to date by US and international partners, only 51% are currently available for flight,. According to WINTER, availability rates were lowest for aircraft purchased in early lots, which were beset with a number of hardware and software issues that later production lots addressed. LRIP 2 through 4 have availability rates between 40% and 50%, WINTER said. The most recent LRIP lots, 9 and 10, which include aircraft that are still rolling off the production line, have the highest availability rates, 70% to 75%, he said.

The flyaway cost of the F-35 Lightning II is steadily coming down with each production lot. In 2014, the airframe cost went below US$100 Million for the first time, and the flyaway cost of the F-35A fell to US$94.3 Million in Lot 10, which was signed in 2017. The flyaway cost is aimed to be reduced to no more than US$85 Million for the F-35A in Lot 13. 

The Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 turbofan engine powers the F-35A and F-35C, F-35B is powered by F135-PW-600. Only the F-35B has thrust vectoring, which can greatly improve maneuverability for dogfighting. The F135 engine is not designed to super cruise. However, the F-35 can briefly fly at Mach 1.2 for 150 miles without the use of an afterburner. The F135 is the second (radar) stealthy afterburning jet engine. The F-35 has a maximum speed of over Mach 1.6. With a maximum take-off weight of 60,000lb (27,000kg).

The F-35 designed with two internal weapon bays, and six external hard-points. The two-outer hard-points can carry pylons for the AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-132 ASRAAM short-range air-to-air missiles (AAM) only. The other pylons with a capacity of 2.500lb and 5.000lb can carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM BVR AAMs AAM, AGM-158 JASSM cruise missile, and guided bombs such as GBU-12. The external pylons can carry missiles, bombs, and external fuel tanks at the expense of increased RCS, and thus reduced stealth.

With its multi-spectral active, passive & IR sensors, and increased payload, the F-35 is more capable in air-to-ground role and optimized for Global Precision Attack. The F-35 is drastically more than just a fighter jet; it is a highly integrated air system. The F-35A’s advanced sensor package gathers and distributes more information than any fighter in history, giving operators a decisive advantage over all adversaries. The Lightning II will provide paralleled situation awareness, allowing the pilot to virtually “look through the floor of the fighter or behind the aircraft”. Networking will also allow the pilot to see information provided by other aircraft, ships or ground units. Its tremendous processing power, open architecture, sophisticated sensors, information fusion and flexible communication links make the F-35 an indispensable tool in future homeland defense, joint and coalition irregular warfare, and major combat operations.

Fifth-generation fighter capabilities are largely defined by their software capabilities. The F-35 has more software than any other air combat aircraft, with 8.4 million lines of code in the aircraft, and a further 7 million lines of software in the supporting ground systems.

The F-35 is less maneuverable than some fourth-generation aircraft, particularly the Russian Sukhoi fighters, but this deficiency is negated through its all-aspect stealth feature. The F-35 has stealth designed in as part of the aircraft from the beginning. The F-35’s advanced stealth allows pilots to penetrate areas without being detected by radars that legacy fighters cannot evade. The F-22 Raptor is probably the only operational aircraft stealthier than the JSF. But the radar cross section of the JSF is at its lowest when directly facing a radar. It then increases as the aircraft turns away from the radar presenting more of its side rather than front. The F-35’s exact RCS is classified; however, Aviation Week magazine reports that the F-35 RCS is -30 dBsm or .001 square meters. In June 2016 the F-35 JSF scored an 8:0 kill ratio against the F-15E during mock air combat. It was disclosed in September 2017 that during their 45 minutes lasted flight within the Greek FIR, while heading to Nevatim Airbase in Israel, the two new F-35I Adir fighters of the Israeli Air Force were not detected by any Greek air surveillance radar in the area.

 Su-57/T-50 Sukhoi PAK FA

Designed by Sukhoi, the Su-57 (formerly T-50 and PAK FA) is a fifth-generation single seat, twin-engine multi-role fighter aircraft intended to compete with F-22 Raptor. The Su-57 is the first combat aircraft program that is started by the Russian Federation and will be the first aircraft in Russian military service to use stealth technology. In August 2017, Sukhoi revealed that T-50 PAK FA fifth-generation fighter jet had received the serial index of ‘Su-57’. Categorized as a ‘fifth-generation fighter’ the Su-57 is planned to have supercruise capability, stealth/radar-absorbing materials, supermaneuvrability, networking, data fusion and advanced avionics. The Su-57 has been experiencing technical problems which caused delays in the program schedule but it is believed that ultimately the Russian Aerospace Industry will be able to resolve the existing technical glitches with the aircraft and field a capable operational aircraft during the second half of the 2020s.

The Su-57 is intended to replace MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian Air Force and serve as the basis for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) being co-developed by Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force. However according to Indian media in October 2o17 the Indian Air Force has reportedly demanded an end to FGFA project. According to Defense News, senior IAF officers are concerned that the new aircraft will not meet desired requirements including RCS/stealth. After evaluating the first T-50/Su-57 prototype the IAF wanted more than 4o changes on the aircraft.

The T-50/Su-57 prototype first flew on January 29, 2010 and according to Russian media as of March 2o18 there are 13 Su-57 prototypes. 1oth prototype (T-50-10) has performed its maiden flight on December 23, 2017. Prototype aircraft are being used under Su-57 Flight Test Program. Russian Federation is expected to place an order for the first batch of 12 Su-57s for the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2018. Deliveries of first two production aircraft to the Russian Aerospace Forces are to begin in 2019. Su,57s will be produced by United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). The Russian Air Force is expected to procure more than 150 Su-57 aircraft. In December 2014, the Russian Aerospace Forces planned to receive 55 fighters by 2020. Yuri BORISOV, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister for armaments stated in 2015 that the Russian Aerospace Forces will slow Su-57/T-50 production and reduce its initial order to 12 fighters and retain large fleets of fourth-generation (+ four-and-a-half generation fighter aircraft such as Su-35S) fighters due to the nation’s economy. The Su-57 aircraft is expected to have a service life of up to 35 years. 

The prototypes and the initial production batch (covering 12 aircraft) will be delivered with NPO Saturn AL-41F1 (Izdeliye-117) engines, closely related to the Saturn 117S engines used on the Su-35S, as interim engines while a new clean-sheet design turbofan engine (Izdeliye-30) is currently under development. Each of the NPO Saturn AL-41F1/Izdeliye-117 turbofans, provides 32,500lbs of thrust. According to Russian sources, though the AL-41F1 provides enough thrust for sustained supersonic cruise capability, it does not meet the Russian Aerospace Forces requirements for thrust-to-weight ratio or fuel efficiency. On June 1o, 2014, the fifth flying prototype, aircraft T-50-5, was severely damaged by an engine fire after landing. The pilot managed to escape unharmed. 

The first successful test flight with a Su-57 (T-50-2 prototype) using the new Izdeliye-30 turbofan engine took place on December 5, 2017 and lasted 17 minutes. But the engine will not be ready until 2025, so the Su-57 will not be ready for serial production until 2027. Little is known about the Izdeliye-30 engine, but it will reportedly provide the Su-57 with 39,566lbs of afterburning thrust. It will also improve the Su-57’s fuel efficiency (%17-18 more efficient than AL-41F1) and stealth capabilities. The engines also have fewer components and resulting lower maintenance costs and reduced maintenance schedule. Thrust-vectoring will be standard and allow for the required agility. With the new Izdeliye-30 turbofans installed, the Su-57 is expected to offer kinematic performance comparable to the F-22 Raptor, cruising without afterburner at speeds exceeding Mach 1.5 with a maximum speed greater than Mach 2.0 at altitudes of around 60.000ft. The Su-57’s listed ferry range is 3,400 miles with an operational service ceiling of 65,000 feet. The airframe will support forces of up to 9G.  

Standard armament will be one or two 30mm GSh-301 series cannons. Six internal hard-points will be available as well as up to six external hard-points. The internal hard-points will be set across the two (perhaps four in finalized production forms) internal weapons bays found under the fuselage.

The T-50 makes extensive use of composites comprising 25% of the structural weight and almost 7o% of the outer surface. Whereas, structural composites in the F-35 are 35% of the airframe weight (up from 25% in the F-22). In 2010, Alexander DAVIDENKO, Chief Engineer on the T-50 PAK FA Project, claimed that the F-22 RCS was about 0.3 to 0.4 square meters and that the T-50’s RCS should be close to that. Military journalist Dmitriy LITOVKIN, writing in Izvestya, stated that the Su-57/T-50’s RCS “will be equal to 0.5 square meters (for the Su-30 MKI, the Indian version of the Su-30, it is 20 square meters”. By comparison, Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor has the RCS of a small bird or a bumble bee at between 0.001 and 0.01 square meters.

The Su-57 features an extremely complex and fully integrated avionics suite which will include three X Band AESA radar (one main and two side-looking), another two L Band AESA radars in the wing’s leading-edge extensions, plus an integrated Electro-Optical (EO) System location system (working in IR, visible and UV frequencies). All these sensors are fused (5 radars, 2 bands, plus passive optics) and they are then combined with the data received by the Su-57′s advanced EW suite and a high-speed encrypted datalink, connecting the aircraft to other airborne, space, as well as ground-based sensors. The Su-57 will be equipped with the upgraded version of KRET’s  Okhotnik (Hunter) video image processing system. According to Russian media providing digital image stabilization, auto detecting and auto tracking capabilities the upgraded system (with CCD and IR image sensors) will increase the Su-57’s target acquisition range by 50-100 percent under conditions of limited visibility.

In February of 2018 the Russian Aerospace Forces have deployed a number of Su-57 to Syria for testing. Satellite imagery has confirmed at least two (four in some sources) Su-57s has been deployed at Khmeimim Airbase in Syria. On March 1, 2018 Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei SHOIGU has confirmed that two Su-57 fighters went to Syria for a series of trials, but these only lasted two days before the planes returned home. “Indeed, they were there for a while. Two days. During that time, they completed a program of trials, including combat ones,” Minister SHOIGU said. 

The price tag of an Su-57 is quoted as approximately US$54 Million.

J-20 Black Eagle

Designed and developed by China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corporation for the PLAAF the J-20 is a single seat, twin-engine, fifth generation stealth fighter intended to fulfil two roles, long range air superiority and ground attack. China, however, refers the J-20 as a fourth-generation medium and long-range fighter jet. 

The J-20 performed its 15-minute lasted maiden flight on January 11, 2011, following the manufacture of 8 prototypes for flight test program the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Phase was started. On January 18, 2016 LRIP version of the J-20, numbered 2101, performed its maiden flight and China declared the J-20 fully functional in May 2017. The first J-20 entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in September 2o17.  On September 28, 2017, Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesperson Wu QIAN stated that the J-20 “has been officially commissioned into military service.” As of January, 2018 it is believed the PLAAF operates 8 J-20 prototypes and 5 LRIP fighter jets. Prototypes and pre-production aircraft are designated 20XX, while production versions are designated 21XX. 

A number of J-20s had participated in the Red Sword 2017 war games held in November 2017. In early January 2o18 several J-20 stealth fighters took part in combat exercise against fourth-generation PLAAF fighters. According to Chinese media the 9-day lasted exercise witnessed BVR air-to-air combat maneuvers among J-20, Shenyang J-16 fighter-bombers and Chengdu J-10C multirole fighter jets. In February 2018 China declare that its new stealth fighter J-20 is combat ready.

The prototypes and LRIP Phase J-20s are powered by WS-10B/G and AF-31F turbofan engines. The aircraft’s maiden flight was powered by two Russian AL-31 engines, which are less capable than China’s WS-10B/G, developed as a stopgap for the J-20. Chinese Aerospace Industries is currently working on an advanced, next-generation high performance domestic turbofan engine coded WS-15. WS-15 project started in the 1990s, with the first prototype delivered in 2004 and the first successful ground-running test staged in 2015. However, the WS-15 engine designed for the J-20 exploded during a ground running test in 2015. China has allocated US$16 Billion for the development of domestic fighter engines, but it takes time to develop new generation turbofan engine for the fighter jets. Pratt & Whitney and General Electric for example has spent more than 12 years developing prototypes of the F119 engine in the 1980s, followed by another 14 years of testing after the engine’s maiden flight, fitted to an F-22, in September 1997.

By 2020 the J-20 is planned to be powered by a pair of WS-16 engine, which will enable the J-20 have supercruise capability. China is not expected to put the J-20 into mass production until the WS-15 project was wrapped up. In addition to engine and its reliability issue, the J-20 Program has been experiencing technical difficulties in the fields of aircraft control system, stealth coat and hull material an IR sensor. Given that the J-20 currently lacks thrust vectoring it is believed that the aircraft is less maneuverable than the F-22 but it is still more advanced than China’s fourth-generation fighters because of its stealth capabilitiy and the most able combat aircraft in the service of the PLAAF. PLAAF is expected to receive about 700 J-20 Black Eagle by 2035.

As the first fifth-generation fighter of China, the J-20 represents a critical step in China’s efforts to develop advanced aircraft to improve its regional power projection capabilities and to strengthen its ability to strike regional airbases and facilities.

The J-20 has a long and wide fuselage presumably for the use of large amounts of internal fuel stores, advanced avionics capacities and large internal weapons bays. The J-20 contains two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as PL-9 and PL-10 IR missiles and a larger bay under the fuselage for a variety of long-range missiles (can accommodate four PL-15 medium range AAMs or the PL-21 ramjet powered, long range AAMs, similar to the Meteor) and surface attack weapons. This is similar to the weapons bay configuration of the F-22, but different from the Russian Su-57/T-50, which instead holds two small and two large weapons bays.

While there are some visual similarities to the casual observer, further inspection quickly dispels the thinking that the J-20 Black Eagle is an exact copy of the F-22 Raptor. The J-20 makes use of a large-area delta wing design without traditional tail surfaces whereas the F-22 make use of a diamond-type wing arrangement with horizontal tail surfaces aft of the main wing assemblies. The J-20 also features ventral fins and forward canards, two design elements not utilized by any other fifth-generation stealth-minded fighter for they tend to compromise stealth characteristics. The J-20 is significantly larger than F-22 and longer from nose to tail, leading most to assume that the J-20 design is focused on range and an expanded weapons capability needed to cover the vast Chinese airspace. The J-20 is also slated to carry a variety of advanced electronic systems. This technology includes an active electronically scanned array, a chin mounted infrared/electro-optic search and track sensor, and a passive electro-optical detection system that will provide 360° spherical coverage around the aircraft. These systems are expected to be comparable to those found inside the F-35. Additionally, the J-20 is likely to field an advanced communications suite that will enable it to datalink with friendly platforms in service and platforms under development.

Analysts noted that the J-20’s nose and canopy use a similar stealth shaping design as the F-22 yielding similar signature performance in a mature design at the front, while the aircraft’s side and axi-symmetric engine nozzles may expose the aircraft to radar. The J-20 is believed to have first generation level stealth (comparable to F-117’s, with a RCS of .269 square feet) characteristics. The F-35 probably has a one-to-two order of magnitude advantage in stealth over the J-20, giving it a first shot/kill advantage in a one-on-one confrontation.  

The J-20 also have impressive sensor capabilities. In addition to its AESA radar, the Chinese appear to have copied the stealthy electro-optical targeting system sensor housing from the F-35. The J-20 reportedly also has a 360-degree optical counterpart to the F-35s distributed aperture system. Since the J-20 radar is an early Chinese AESA, it is unlikely to be in the same class as the radar on the F-35. Moreover, it is unlikely China can match the “flying super computer” capabilities of the F-35, including sensor integration and networking to improve pilot situational awareness. 

The J-20 Black Eagle is one of two stealth fighters being simultaneously developed in China.  The other aircraft is the Shenyang FC-31 Gyrfalcon, a smaller multirole stealth fighter that is being developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) and could potentially be commercially exported to other countries. Both Chengdu and Shenyang are subsidiaries of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). It is likely that the J-20 and J-31 will complement one another when integrated into the PLAAF’s service, similar to the US partnership with F-22 and F-35.


The J-31 (FC-31 is the export designation, which is also referred to as the F-60), is one of two fifth-generation fighters being developed in China. Made by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC), the J-31 is a twin-engine, mid-size fifth generation export-oriented fighter. There are currently three prototypes, being used as a test-bed. Powered by a pair of RD-93S engines procured from the Russian Federation the first prototype numbered 31001, performed its 10 minutes lasted maiden flight on October 31, 2012. The second prototype, improved version, performed its first flight on December 26, 2016. The new J-31 prototype is three tons heavier and about 20 inches longer than the original technology demonstrator (31001); it also had key improvements like an IRST sensor, stealthier wings, cleaner burning engines, and an improved radar. In addition to avionics and data links that enable sensor fusion, SAC officials state that the production J-31s (which could appear soon as 2019) could have supercruise capability, giving them a leg up over current F-35 fighters. Its RD-93S/WS-13 engines would be replaced by domestic WS-13E or WS-19 turbofan engines to give it that advantage in speed. The combination of the J-31’s high speed performance, and suggested payload of 6 PL-12 or 4 PL-21 long range air to air missiles suggests that the J-31 has been optimized as an air superiority fighter, though it can be fitted with a wide array of Chinese precision guided munitions.  

The FC-31 is not yet in production, AVIC plans to perform first flight with production model by 2019 and allow J-31 to enter PLAAF service in 2022.

The J-31 made its first public appearance at Zhuhai Airshow on November 12, 2014. The FC-31 is claimed to be the export version, where the J-31 would be the domestic Chinese version of the same fighter. The J-31 is smaller than the J-20. The use of twin-wheel nose landing gear led to speculations that the J-31 may intended to be a carrier-based fighter.

Specifications from AVIC show the J-31/FC-31 has a maximum takeoff weight of 25 metric tons, a combat range of 1,200 km and a top speed of Mach 1.8, or 2,205 kilometers per hour. It can carry 8 metric tons of weapons and has a designed service life of up to 30 years. 

The up-to-date scale model of the J-31 that was displayed at the Zhuhai Airshow in 2014 demonstrates several important upgrades from the first prototype (31001), including the installation of a Electro Optical Targeting Sensor (EOTS) pod under the nose, to enable the J-31 to track the heat signatures of enemy aircraft. The new model also has redesigned wings, clipped at the corners to enhance stealth, and all new vertical stabilizers, which have been enhanced for stealth. The new model also has redesigned, stealth optimized engine nozzles, which suggest that a Chinese new turbofan engine at 10- to 11-tonne thrust class will ultimately replace the Russian RD-93S. Notably, such future engines could allow the J-31 to to achieve supercruise capability. The J-31 is clearly intended to be a true fifth-generation fighter, not only in stealth but also in sensor fusion and flight avionics.

It is highly likely that the J-31/FC-31 will be China’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; its development is expected to spiral into both PLAAF and PLANAF variants. The J-31 differs from the F-35 in that it has two engines, which in turn reduces its area ruling, making for more efficient supersonic flight, including future supercruise capability once the J-31 obtains more powerful engines. Like the F-35, the J-31 has two internal weapons bays that can each carry two medium range missiles, along with two heavy hard-points and one light hard-point on each wing, but while it seems to have added an additional light hard-point to each wing over the capacity of the F-35, it seems to lack the capacity of the F-35 to mount a centerline gunnery or jamming pod.


As South Korea’s second fighter development program following the FA-50, the KF-X Program is led by Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) and partnered by Indonesia. The KF-X/IF-X Program aims to develop an advanced, fifth generation multi role fighter to meet both Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) and Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU). Under the 2010 MoU, Indonesian company PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI) participates in the aircraft’s development

The KF-X/IF-X is a medium-class, twin-engine, multirole stealth fighter with fifth generation capabilities like stealth, AESA radar, internal weapon bays, supercruise and sensor fusion. The KF-X/IF-X will have both single and twin-seat versions and to be powered by two General Electric F414 turbofan engines. Compared to KF-16, the KF-X will have a 50% greater combat radius, 34% longer airframe lifespan, better avionics including a domestically produced AESA radar, and better electronic warfare, IRST, and datalink capabilities.

The project was first announced by South Korean President Kim Dae JUNG in March 2001 and South Korea and Indonesia agreed to cooperate in the production of KF-X/IF-X fighters in Seoul on July 15, 2010. On 20 April 2011, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) confirmed the signing of a definitive agreement between South Korea and Indonesia to jointly develop the Korean KF-X next-generation fighter aircraft. On 2 August 2011, a joint research center was opened in Daejeon. Indonesia is undertaking 20% of development costs and planned to obtain as many as 80 IF-X under the program. While RoKAF plans to obtain 120 examples of KF-X.

On 5 January 2014, DAPA announced the approval of development of the KF-X, performance based on available technologies and in July 2014 the RoKAF and the Ministry of National Defense confirmed that KF-X program would go ahead with the twin-engine C103/KF-X-200 design, technical development of which was completed in 2013. The KF-X-200 twin-engine configuration has been selected over the single-engine KF-X-100 proposal. The RoKAF believes that more than anything else, a twin-engine aircraft has better combat performance as well as better safety.

Even they are more expensive than the single-engine versions the twin-engine fighters can carry heavier payloads over longer distances. The KF-X/IF-X aircraft is similar in configuration to the F-22, with chined nose and outward-canted fins. Alignment of the leading edges of the wings, root extensions and tailplanes is 40 degrees aft sweep, while trailing edges are aligned 10 degrees forward. 

Lockheed Martin, prime contractor of the F-35 Lightning II, won around US$7 Billion defense deal covering the delivery of 40 F-35As to RoCAF, by promising to provide 25 technologies associated with the F-35 to help KF-X program. And a Letter of Offer and Acceptance was signed under FMS program between South Korea and the US for the purchase of 40 F-35A fighter jets in September 2014. However, in September 2015, DAPA announced that the US has refused to grant export license for four key technologies for the KF-X program; AESA radar, Infra-red Search and Tracking (IRST) System, Electro-Optical Tracking System and next generation radio frequency jammers for indigenous production, delaying the development until at least 2025. There still are worries over whether the United States will transfer the remaining 21 technologies in a timely manner. Meanwhile, the first of 40 F-35As destined for the RoCAF was rolled out on March 28, 2018 at a Lockheed Martin production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. It will arrive in South Korea in 2019.

On December 4, 2015 a Strategic Cooperation Agreement (SCA) on the joint development and production of KF-X/IF-X fighter jets was signed between KAI and PT DI in Jakarta. After the signing ceremony speaking to the media KAI CEO Ha Sung-YONG said that the KF-X/IF-X program would use original South Korean technologies and would not affected by the US refusal to provide his country with four critical technologies. Meanwhile, PT DI President Director Budi SANTOSO declared that hat the first prototype would be produced by 2019 and that the fifth prototype would be produced in 2o22 at PT DI’s facility in Bandung, Indonesia. “The jet fighter is expected to be operational in 2024 or 2025,” he said. Under the strategic cooperation agreement PT DI will send a contingent of some 200 engineers to South Korea for the production preparation stage. PT DI President Director SANTOSO provided following information about the minor differences between the KF-X and IF-X,

“The IF-X will have a greater range as required by the Indonesian Air Force. For air refueling, the IF-X will use a probe system while the KF-X will use a boom system.

The third difference will be the data link. South Korea will use the US-made Link 16 and probably develop their own while we will also develop our own.” According to SANTOSO, Indonesia plans to have its own data link to allow communications with the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27/30 Flankers heavy jet fighters. 

On December 28, 2015 DAPA formally signed an agreement with KAI for the KF-X Program. According to agreement DAPA will finance 60% of the 8.5 trillion won (US$6.9 Billion) costs required in the development (EMD) Phase, with KAI to pay 20%. Investing US$1.3 Billion Indonesia/PT DI is paying the remaining 20%. Indonesia will receive one prototype (fifth prototype) and gain access to some technical data and information involved in the project.

In January 2016 Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase of the KF-X/IF-X Program was started. The EMD Phase will cost 8.5 trillion won (US$6.9 Billion) and will last 10 years and six months. It is planned to be completed during the first half of 2026. As of March 2018, the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) is continuing and planned to be completed in June 2018. The PDR will be followed by Critical Design Review (CDR) Phase in September 2019. After the completion of CDR Phase production of prototypes will commence in late 2019. First KF-X prototype is planned to be rollout in 2022 and expected to achieve maiden flight in mid 2022. Under the EMD Phase six flying KF-X/IF-X prototypes will be manufactured for the test and evaluation purpose. The EMD Phase also includes two rescue test aircraft, and training and munitions support systems. In a bid to accomplish 65 percent of the localization rates, the domestic industry, academia and institutions will contribute their abilities. Test and evaluation phase will run until 2026 and an entry into service is expected to take place sometime in 2026. It is expected that KF-X/IF-X fighter can get Type Certificate in 2025. Another 9.6 trillion won is earmarked for the serial production of the KF-X fighters, bringing the total budget for the project to 18.1 trillion won (US$15.7 Billion). The first batch of 40 KF-X aircraft for the RoCAF is expected for 2028. In addition to Korea and Indonesia, Korea will be able to export 600 to 700 units of the KF-X/IF-X, according to KAI.

In May 2016 the General Electric F414-400 turbofan engine has been selected ahead of the EuroJet EJ200 offering for the KF-X/IF-X fighter program. A first-flight is tentatively scheduled for some time in 2020. The engines will be built locally (under license with at least 60% local contribution) under the Hanwha Techwin brand label. In July 2016 Hanwha Techwin signs agreement with GE to locally manufacture F414 engines for KF-X/IF-X fighter jets.

On February 8, 2017 a joint program management office for the KF-X/IF-X fighter program was declared open in Sacheon, South Korea. The office is run by both South Korea and Indonesia. PT DI has dispatched 74 personnel to South Korea for the KF-X program. The number of dispatched PT DI’s senior and junior engineers will increase every year that will peak in 2022 where there will be nearly 200 engineers in South Korea. 

In May 2017 it was disclosed that DAPA has signed a technology support contract with IAI’s ELTA Systems for the airborne testing of KF-X AESA radar and in July 2017 the simplified version of the prototype radar for the KF-X fighter jets was unveiled. To be installed on one of KF-X prototypes the AESA radar will undergo five years of flight tests from 2022 to 2026. Meanwhile, in December 2017 Saab signs a contract for AESA radar development programme in South Korea. Saab will work in cooperation ith ADD and its contractual partner LIG Nex1.

TF-X – Turkish Fighter

National Combat Aircraft (Milli Muharip Uçak/MMU) TF-X will be a single-seat, twin-engine next generation fighter (based on FX-1 concept) with stealth features and new generation avionics. Replacing the F-16C/Ds currently in Turkish Air Force (TurAF) service after 2029 the TF-X will be a fifth-generation indigenous air superiority fighter, which will escort and provide air protection to TurAF’s F-35A Lighting II fleet. Turkey is likely to procure some 150 TF-X in the long term.

In order to meet TurAF’s operational requirements properly, the 60.000lb class TF-X will be equipped with twin turbofan engines, each generating 27,000lb thrust. The first TF-X prototype is expected to achieve its maiden flight in 2023, when Turkey will celebrate 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic, with either EuroJet EJ200 or F414-GE-400 of GE. First delivery to TurAF is planned for 2029. According to TAI General Manager Temel Kotil,Ph.d when entered in TurAF service the TF-X will have indigenous turbofans each generating 27.000lb thrust. Deliveries will continue until 2039 and TF-X aircraft will be phased out from the Turkish Air Force inventory after 2070s. 

The TurAF has initiated National Combat Aircraft (NCA/TF-X) Development Program in accordance with Decision No 545 adopted at Defense Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) dated 15 December 2010. TAI was selected as the Prime Contractor and the Contract for ‘Concept Development and Preliminary Design Phase’ was signed between the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) and TAI on 23 August 2011. Under the contract, involving a 24-month schedule and came into force on 29 September 2011, between 2011-2013 Prime Contractor TAI prepared three separate conceptual designs with technical support provided by SAAB Aircraft, selected as Technical Support and Assistance Provider (TSAP). These three configurations are named as; FX-1 (configuration with double engine, back wing and conventional tail design such as F-18, Eurofighter, Rafale and Mig-29), FX-5 (configuration with single engine, back wing and conventional tail design) and FX-6 (configuration with single engine, broad delta wing and front wings). 

Following the completion of ‘Concept Development and Preliminary Design Phase, the Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase of the TF-X Program has been launched. Following the lengthy negotiations 48-month scheduled Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase Contract was signed between TAI and SSM on August 5, 2016. With this signature the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase of the TF-X Program was also started. Under the EMD Phase seven flying TF-X prototypes will be manufactured for the test and evaluation purpose. The EMD Phase will cost US$8.6 Billion and will last 12 years. Another US$14 Billion is earmarked for the serial production of the TF-X fighters, bringing the total budget for the project to US$20 Billion. 

Under the Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase, which will end up with completion of Preliminary Design Phase, beyond the design and development of TF-X aircraft, engineering capabilities, technology development activities (for key sensors like radar, electronic warfare... etc.), test infrastructures establishment and certification processes will be performed and extensive capabilities for a new generation jet fighter design, development and production will be gained by Turkish Defense & Aerospace Industry. Under the TF-X Program BAE Systems will act as Foreign Cooperation Partner (Technical Support and Assistance Provider). 

On January 28, 2017 in the presence of the Prime Ministers of Turkey and the United Kingdom, BAE Systems and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) signed a US$156 Million valued Heads of Agreement (HoA) to collaborate under the Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase of the TF-X Program. In addition, the Letter of Agreement (LOA) has been signed during the IDEF ’17 Fair in Istanbul. UK Department for International Trade brought an Open General Export License (OGEL) into effect on July 28, 2017. The OGEL will allow companies involved in the development of the TF-X Program to apply for licenses to export goods, software and technology from a range of control list classifications, including air launched munitions, fire-control equipment, aircraft components, propulsion systems, ground support equipment, electronic equipment, training and simulation equipment, imaging and countermeasure equipment, and specialized forgings, fittings and coatings. The TAI-BAE Systems Collaboration Agreement was signed and entered in to effect on 25th of August 2017.

As of March 2018, the Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase is continuing and planned to be completed in 2021. The Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase will cost US$1.3 Billion and to be followed by the PDR will be followed by 8-year scheduled Critical Design Review (CDR) and Prototype Production and Qualification Phases, which planned to cost around US$7.3 Billion.

According to TAI General Manger Temel Kotil,Ph.D TF-X will feature Acoustic Heating Technology and during next 10-years period a total of 10,000 Turkish and foreign (including the ones from the BAE Systems) engineers from different disciplines and with supersonic fighter design and manufacture experience (know-how) will work under the program. Under the contract BAE System will provide 400 man/year engineering support for a period of 4 years to TAI under the Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase of the TF-X Program.

Turkey’s need for TF-X in the long term is anticipated as 100-150 aircraft. TF-X Development Program is carried out under the coordination of TF-X Program Integrated Project Management Office comprising of representatives from TurAF National Combatant Branch Office, SSM, TAI and BAE Systems personnel.  As part of its reorganization effort TAI has established MMU/TF-X Department and Prof. Dr. Mustafa Cavcar was appointed as Head of MMU/TF-X Department.