A Closer Look at the Turkish Defence Industry’s Fixed Wing Air Platforms Sector

by İbrahim SÜNNETÇİ

Date: Issue 84 - August 2018

Contrary to general opinion Turkey began quite early to be active in manned aircraft production. The history of Turkish Aviation can be traced back to the 1920’s. Turkey’s first ever aircraft manufacturing facilities Tayyare Otomobil ve Motor Türk Anonim Şirketi (Turkish Aircraft, Automobile and Engine Company/TOMTAŞ) was established in 1925, only two years after the proclamation of the Turkish Republic, in Kayseri and production started in 1928. However, Turkey missed the manned aircraft train due to internal political disputes and the foreign military aid that began upon Turkey’s membership accession to NATO.  Turkey could have probably have been placed in the top10 manned aircraft manufacturers in the world in the1970s. Both stalled the development of local aviation industry, which was at its preliminary stage of formation at that time.

With the ‘Build Your Own Aircraft’ campaign, manned aircraft production in Turkey came to life again at the beginning of 1970s. For this purpose, on June 28, 1973 TUSAŞ (Turkish Aircraft Industries Incorporated Company) was established. However, after the Cyprus Peace Operation in 1974, the political and social problems prevented Turkey from building its own aircraft. In the early 1980s the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) started research to select its new combat aircraft and for this purpose a committee was founded in 1982. As a result of a comprehensive test and evaluation process the F-16 was chosen as the TurAF’s new combat fighter. For this purpose, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) Company, which is at that time was mainly responsible for the F-16 production/final assembly in Turkey, was founded on May 15, 1984 as a Joint Venture (JV). On June 25, 1985 TUSAŞ Engine Industries (TEI), a Turkish-American joint stock company, was also established to manufacture engine components and assemble F110-GE-100 engines for the TurAF F-16C/Ds. TEI’s factory was officially opened on June 10, 1987.