A Look at the TurAF’s Ongoing Fixed Wing Jet Powered Air Platform Programs

Tarih: Issue 92 - July 2019

As one of the largest air forces in the world, the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) currently has around 750 pilots (as of February 2019) as well as 270 combat aircraft including 238 F-16C/D (35 x Block 30M, 1 x Block 30TM ÖZGÜR, 102 x Block 40M, 71 x Block 50M and 29 x Blok 50+) and some 30 F-4E 2020s, 180 trainers (including 68 T-38M jet trainers, 16 NF-5A/B 2000s [10 NF-5A 2000s and 6 NF-5B 2000s] in the Turkish Stars Acroteam inventory, 40 KT-1Ts, around 30 SF-260Ds and around 25 T-41Ds), and around 100 Transport/Support aircraft (including 8 A400M [+2 to be delivered], 4E-7T AEW&C aircraft, 19 C-130B/E Hercules [6 B and 13 E, undergoing avionics upgrades under the ERCİYES Project], some 10 C-160Ds [5 in transport, 3 in GÖREN ISR  configuration and 2 in MilKar-2U Electronic Warfare configuration], 49 CN235-100M [45 in Transport/Air Ambulance/Training role, 3 in SIGINT/ELINT configuration and 1 in Open Skies Agreement (ASA) configuration], 7 KC-135R Stratotankers) in its inventory. 

The TurAF’s 238 F-16C/D fighters are currently operated by 10 different Squadrons deployed at 7 different bases (Eskisehir 1st MJB, Konya 3rd MJB, Merzifon 5th MJB, Bandırma 6th MJB, Diyarbakır 8th MJB, Balıkesir 9th MJB and İncirlik (Adana) 10th MJB) around Turkey. Most of them have been modernized to the latest Block 50+ standards under the PO-III and F-16 MSM/CCIP Programs. There are also some 30 upgraded F-4E 2020 Phantom II all-weather fighter-bombers (in 111th Squadron service located in 1st MJB, but F-4E 2020s are deployed both in 1st MJB and 7th MJB under the 111th Squadron umbrella and are planned to be replaced by F-35As). Turkey, as a Level-III Partner in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, has a plan to procure as many as 116 F-35A aircraft, which will provide the TurAF with 5th Generation stealth and long-range strike capability. The T-41Ds are used for Screening Flights, while the SF-260Ds are used for Primary Flight Training. T-41Ds and SF-260Ds are to be replaced with MFI-17 395 Super Mushshak Primary Trainer Aircraft produced by Pakistan. The T-38M Advanced Jet Trainer Aircraft will fly until 2030s. New Generation Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) version of the HürJet, being developed by TUSAS, is to replace T-38Ms. As a modern, cutting edge air force, configured and trained to the highest Western/NATO standards, the TurAF is able to execute the full spectrum of air missions.

F-35A Lightning II JSF Program

The F-35A was selected as the New Generation Fighter Jet of the Turkish Air Forces Command upon the Decree of the Defence Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) dated December 12, 2006 and the Letter of Intent (LoI) and the Industry Participation Plan was signed between the SSB and the Prime Contractor Lockheed Martin (LM) on February 6, 2007 in Ankara. Turkey has a plan to procure as many as 116 F-35As, conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, until 2031 for the TurAF to replace the aging F-4Es (already phased out of service but when the project was launched they were in service), F-4E 2020s (which was planned to be phased out of service in 2020 but this deadline was extended in 2018) and F-16C/D Block 30 and Block 40s.

Combining new developments such as composite materials, stealth technology, advanced radar, fully integrated avionics and sensors, low observability (including the use of internal weapons bays), have vastly improved situational awareness through a network-centric combat environment and the design ability to act as an integrated data node, the 5th Generation F-35A Lightning II combat aircraft will be a key factor in deterring any attack on Turkey. The F-35A is a lot more than simply an F-4E 2020 and F-16C/D replacement. It will add a wide range of capabilities to the Turkish Armed Forces that Turkey has never had before. The F-35A Lightning II is not just a new generation fighter. It is a completely new weapons system for the TurAF.

Turkey will pay around US$11 Billion for 100 F-35As, and as a Level-III Partner of the Program has already invested US$1,4 Billion so far in the F-35 Lightning II development phase.  The estimated value of revenue to be acquired through the work packages assumed by the Turkish Defence Industry throughout the F-35 JSF Program’s total duration was calculated to be US$7.5 Billion by the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB). Speaking at a televised interview held on 13 June 2018 President of Defence Industries (SSB) İsmail DEMİR Ph.D. underlined that the total value of the contracts awarded to Turkish Defence and Aerospace companies under the F-35 JSF Program has reached US$700 Million.

10 Turkish Defence and Aerospace companies (Alp Aviation, Aselsan/MİKES, AYESAŞ, Fokker Elmo, Havelsan, Kale Aero, Kale Pratt & Whitney Engine Industries, Roketsan, TÜBİTAK-SAGE and Turkish Aerospace) have been supporting the development and production phases of the F-35 fighter jets as part of Turkey’s partner role in the JSF Program. Turkish Industry has a significant Industrial Participation role supporting Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney for F-35 aircraft sustainment and F135 turbofan engine production and sustainment. Turkish Defence and Aerospace companies are responsible for 937 parts used to build the F-35, a little over 400 of them are sole-sourced from Turkish firms.

Turkey has also been given the approval to build/assemble its own F135 engines and was also selected to have the first European Regional F135 Engine depot overhaul capability. Both the engine production and overhaul will take place at the 1st Air Maintenance Factory Directorate (1st AMFD, former 1st ASMC) in Eskisehir.

The TurAF F-35As will be integrated with indigenous weapon systems such as Precision Guidance Kit (HGK), GÖKDOĞAN (Peregrine) short-range AAM, BOZDOĞAN (Merlin) Beyond Visual Range (BVR) AAM, SOM Air Launched Cruise Missile and SOM-J air launched anti-ship missile. HGK series smart ammunition and SOM-J missile integration efforts on the F-35A will be launched within the 2021-2022 timeframe with Block 4.2 software. The first live-drop test of the SOM-J missile from the F-16C was successfully conducted in July 2018. The first live firing test with the SOM-J against a target was planned to be executed in early 2019 but did not take place. In fact, even if it can be useful to carry up to six SOM-J missiles (2 in the internal bays and 4 on the external pylons) an F-35A carrying the SOM-J on the underwing pylons would lose much of its stealthiness. Having a range of 150+nm and carrying a single 350lb blast-fragmentation/semi-armor-piercing warhead the 1,000lb class SOM-J is an air-to-surface missile designed for use against heavily defended, high value maritime targets and land targets. Roketsan has been cooperating with TÜBİTAK-SAGE and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the Prime Contractor of the JSF Program since 2014 for the integration of the SOM-J on the F-35. A business partnership agreement was signed with Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (LMMFC) for the design, development, production and marketing of the SOM-J Weapon System in 2014 and the contract was signed in 2016. The integration activities of the F-35 are being carried out by LMMFC with the assistance of Roketsan and TÜBİTAK-SAGE, and these activities are scheduled to be completed in 2023.

As of 1 June 2019 Turkey has placed an order for a total of 30 F-35As in two batches and all will be deployed at the 7th Main Jet Base (MJB) located in Akçadağ, Malatya. Deliveries of the TurAF’s 30 F-35A Lightining II jets are planned to be completed by 2024 The first batch includes 14 (2+4+8) F-35As and the second batch includes 16 (LRIP-13 and LRIP-14) F-35As. The schedule of the TurAF’s 30 F-35A Lightning II aircraft per the LRIP contract is: LRIP-10 2 aircraft (2018), LRIP-11 4 aircraft (2019), LRIP-12 8 aircraft (2020-21), LRIP-13 8 aircraft (2022) and LRIP-14 8 aircraft (2023). The US$115 Billon valued LRIP-11 contract covering 141 F-35s (91 for the U.S, 28 for the international partners and 22 for FMS clients) was awarded in September 2018, LRIP-11 deliveries will be kicked off in 2019. The agreement lowers the price of the F-35A variant from US$943 Million per unit to US$89.2 Million, reflecting a 54% reduction from the previous lot of the JSF Program. The LRIP-12 contract is expected to be awarded during 2019 summer, while the U.S. scans the globe for alternate suppliers for parts currently being made in Turkey, in the event that the country is removed from the JSF Program unless the Turkish Government will back down from the planned purchase of two S-400 Triumph Air and Missile Defence Systems with four batteries from Russia. A total of 14 countries participate in the F-35 JSF Program, but only one - Turkey - is in danger of being expelled from the program. The tension between Turkey and the rest of NATO has continued to grow during first half of 2019 as the country inches closer to accepting delivery of the first S-400 Triumph battery in July, which the U.S. and NATO have said would force them to exclude Turkey from the F-35 team. 

According to Ellen LORD, Undersecretary of Defence for Acquisition and Sustainment at the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD), LM and the U.S. DoD have reached a “handshake agreement” for the company to build 157 Low Rate Initial Production Lot 12 (LRIP-12) F-35s with options for LRIP-13 and LRIP-14, which would include 321 aircraft. LORD said in a statement published on Monday, 10 June 2019 that the US$34 Billion agreement includes the delivery of 478 LRIP F-35s for Lots 12 to Lots 14 in support of U.S. service branches, allies and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) clients. The unit price of the USAF F-35A will fall to less than US$80 Million in Lot-13, one year earlier than planned. By the end of 2022, the F-35 JSF Program is expected to be up to full production capacity of 170 aircraft or more annually. On Monday, 3 June 2019 the U.S. Air Force (USAF) announced that Hill Air Force Base, Utah, had received delivery of the 400th Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF. The USAF also announced that the fleet of 5th Generation F-35 jets have completed 200,000 flight hours. The total includes all test, development, and operational jets, both among U.S. and international aircraft, according to the report. The F-35 Joint Program Office expects delivery of 131 F-35s in 2019 (up 40% from last year [91]) 140 F-35s in 2020 and 160 F-35s in 2021.

The 172nd and the 171st Squadrons of the 7th MJB Command will be the TurAF’s first F-35A squadrons. Upon delivery, the first batch of 14 F-35As would be deployed at the F-35A Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) Squadron (172nd Squadron), where the TurAF F-35A pilots receive training from Turkish Instructor Pilots who have completed their training in the U.S. The second batch of 16 F-35As is expected to equip the 171st Squadron.

To accommodate F-35As, the entire infrastructure for air operations at the 7th MJB is being restructured under a contract valued at TL429,5 Million (around US$121,6 Million according to the Turkish Central Bank’s August 14, 2017 US$/TL rate) which was awarded on August 14, 2017. In this context a total of 88 building/facilities will be demolished and reconstructed. The new buildings/facilities that are under construction at the 7th MJB to accommodate the F-35A aircraft include; new Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HASs) and hangars, underground pens, Squadron and Headquarter buildings, mess halls, guest houses, maintenance facilities, depots, heating plant, sport facilities, taxi ways, concrete pavement and a National F-35 ITC building. On 17 May 2019 accompanied by Force Commanders, Turkish Minister of National Defence (MoND) Hulusi AKAR visited the 7th MJB Command and obtained first hand information on the current status of ongoing reconstruction efforts. However since the U.S. Department of Defence has suspended shipments of F-35 related materials and training equipment to Turkey in April 2019 this step also affected ongoing reconstruction efforts at the 7th MJB and outfitting process for the National Integrated Training Center (ITC-Turkey). The inside of the ITC-Turkey building would be outfitted with furniture, phones and computers and advanced equipment such as classified areas and simulators.

Two TurAF pilots (Major Halit OKTAY and Major M. Onur KARA) received their transition training into the F-35 in the U.S. at a Lockheed Martin facility during the second half of 2017 after which they completed Instructor Pilot training and graduaded from the course in March 2018. They will be staying as Full-Time Instructor Pilots in the 63rd Fighter Squadron for a couple of years. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) activated the 63rd Fighter Squadron on August 1, 2016 at Luke AFB to train TurAF F-35A pilots. The 63rd Fighter Squadron (FS) is one of three fighter squadrons in the 56th Fighter Wing that train F-35 pilots. The TurAF maintenance personnel (maintainers) are trained at Eglin AFB in Florida. According to the original training plan, during 2018-2020 a total of 332 TurAF personnel/trainees, including 13 pilots, will receive training at Luke AFB and Eglin AFB and training of the TurAF F-35A pilots and technical personnel/maintainers will start to take place at ITC-Turkey at the 7th MJB Command in Malatya from 2020 onwards. 

Turkish pilots and maintainers arrived at Luke AFB in June 2018 to begin training on their first two F-35As. On 28 August 2018 Major Halit OKTAY carried out the first solo flight with the F-35A AT-01 (TurAF serial number 18-0001, 15-259) at Luke AFB. With this flight Major OKTAY became the first TurAF pilot to fly the F-35A Lightning II jet. As of 1 June 2019 TurAF trainees at Luke AFB and Eglin AFB consist of 42 students (including 4 pilots who received Transition and Instructor Pilot training). 18 of these trainees are scheduled to complete their training in June, 12 are scheduled to complete training in July, 10 are scheduled to complete training in August and 2 are scheduled to complete training in September 2019.

TurAF F-35A Deliveries & Tension Between Turkey and the U.S. Over S-400 Purchase

The TurAF receieved delivery of its first two F-35As AT-01 (serial number 18-0001) and AT-02 (serial number 18-0002) in June 2018. The 3rd (serial number 18-0003) and 4th (serial number 18-0004) F-35As, were delivered in March 2019 and joined the TurAF F-35As at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in early April 2019. Third F-35A arrived at Luke AFB on 3 April and the fourth F-35A arrived at Luke AFB on 5 April Friday. These four F-35As will stay at Luke AFB and will be utilized in training TurAF pilot and maintenance personnel in the U.S. until December 2020. The TurAF’s 5th (AT-05) and 6th (AT-06) F-35As have been scheduled to be delivered to Turkey in November 2019 and are planned to be flown by Turkish pilots to the 7th MJB in November of 2019, with several air-to-air refueling serials. By the end of 2019 the TurAF is expected to receive further two F-35As (7th and 8th aircraft) and all of these four (5th, 6th, 7th and 8th) F-35As would serve at the 172nd Squadron/F-35A OCU at the 7th MJB. However, delivery and transfer of the future F-35A Lightning IIs to Turkey has been stalled by the U.S. in 2018, so even the fate of the delivery of the F-35As to Turkey has yet to be determined. 

Over the purchase of the S-400 Triumph Air and Missile Defence System (AMDS), Turkey and the U.S. have entered a prolonged period of strained ties and the tension has continued to flare up since the beginning of 2019 as the delivery of the Russian-made system to Turkey draws near. U.S. officials have suggested  that Turkey buy the U.S. Patriot PAC-3 AMDS rather than the S-400, arguing it is incompatible with NATO systems and is a threat to the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. In an attempt to persuade Turkey to drop its plans to buy the S-400, the U.S. has offered a discount in the Patriot PAC-3 deal that expired at the end of March 2019. Turkey has shown interest in the Patriot AMDS, but not at the expense of abandoning the S-400. The U.S. and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the radar and other sensor systems on the S-400 Triumph AMDS will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons. “The S-400 would collect other types of data that would be helpful to anyone who doesn’t have the F-35,” Pentagon Spokesman Lt. Colonel Mike ANDREWS told reporters in 2018. Turkey, on the other hand, has emphasized that the S-400 Triumph AMDS would not be integrated into NATO operability and therefore would not pose a threat to the alliance.

Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have reached a fever pitch in recent weeks and are expected to trigger congressional sanctions against Turkey. The sanctions, if implemented, could also affect Turkey’s ability to obtain further CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, T70 Black Hawk utility helicopters and spare parts for the F-16 fighter jets.

On 18 June 2018 the U.S. Senate passed a US$716 Billion National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), a Defence policy bill, for the fiscal year 2019, which included an amendment that would block the transfer of future F-35 aircraft to Turkey if the country would not cancel the S-400 Triumph Air and Missile Defence Systems purchase. The NDAA law draft was approved by US President Donald TRUMP on 13 August 2018. On 28 March 2019 Thursday four U.S. Senators introduced a bipartisan bill to prohibit the transfer of F-35 JSF aircraft to Turkey until the U.S. Government certifies that Ankara will not take delivery of Russian S-400 AMDS. After months of warnings, on 1 April 2019 the U.S. has stopped delivery of F-35 fighter jet parts and training equipment (including F-35 simulators) to Turkey, which are needed to prepare for the arrival and deployment of TurAF F-35As at the 7th MJB Command. “Until they forgo delivery of the S-400, the U.S. has suspended deliveries and activities associated with the set-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability. Should Turkey procure the S-400, their continued participation in the F-35 program is at risk,” said acting Pentagon Spokesman Charles SUMMERS Jr. This decision also marks the first concrete U.S. step to block delivery of the F-35s to its NATO Ally in light of Ankara’s planned delivery of first 4th Generation S-400 AMDS in June/July timeframe from Russia. On 15 May 2019 Senior U.S. lawmakers introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives expressing concern over U.S. - Turkish relations and calling for the cancellation of Turkey’s F-35 JSF purchases if it acquires Russian S-400 Triumph AMDS. The resolution also called for sanctions on Turkey through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) if it acquires the Russian missile system.

According to the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was signed by President TRUMP on 2 August 2017 the U.S. shall apply economic sanctions to all states/countries making major arms transactions with Russia, Iran or North Korea. The CAATSA sets the ground for such measures to be taken against Turkey should it proceed with the S-400 contract rather than acquire a Western made weapons system. According to the F-35 JSF PSFD MoU, “Disputes among the Participants arising under or relating to this MoU will be resolved only by consultation among the Participants and will not be referred to an individual, to a national court, to an international tribunal, or to any other person or entity for settlement,” however it is not clear whether this clause also covers the potential decision of the U.S. Government regarding the removal of Turkey from the JSF Program.”

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN has refused to back down from Ankara’s planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defence system and continues making strong statements in support of Turkey’s S-400 purchase from Russia. On 5 May 2019 Vice President Fuat OKTAY said Turkey would never bow to U.S. sanctions over its agreement to purchase Russian S-400 AMDS. “We’ve sent personnel to Russia for S-400 training that will begin in the coming days and will span the following months,” Turkish MoND Hulusi AKAR told a group of journalists on 21 May 2019. “Turkey is also making preparations for the potential implementation of Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions,” the MoND added. On 23 May 2019 Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim KIRAN has noted that Ankara opposed the U.S. sanctions under the CAATSA because the deal with Moscow on the S-400 was signed before the law was passed. Speaking on the F-35 Program on a televised interview held on Monday, 27 May on Haber Turk TV channel, Turkish MoND AKAR stated that an undisclosed number of Russian technical specialists would pay a visit to Turkey to assist with putting Russian-made S-400 missile systems into operation. “The matter of the S-400 purchase is closed. It should be understood that it’s a done deal. Our President has repeatedly said that. Technical personnel will arrive from Russia to install the system,” the MoND said without giving the exact timeframe of the visit.  During this televised interview MoND AKAR also underlined that the delivery of Russian-made S-400 systems to Turkey might be delayed until after June, but they would be deployed in the following months. MoND AKAR previously said that the deployment of the first S-400 AMDS in Turkey, of which deliveries are scheduled to start in the June/July time frame, would begin in October 2019. Russian officials stated earlier that they would start the shipment of initial parts of the S-400 Triumph AMDS batteries in June 2019.

On Wednesday, 29 May, speaking at Berstein’s Strategic Decisions Conference in New York, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn HEWSON downplayed the impact of a potential U.S. ban on Turkey’s purchases of the F-35 JSF, saying they will be fine if Ankara buys a Russian air-defence system instead of the F-35s jets and other countries are already angling for Turkey’s F-35As. Japan plans to buy additional F-35s and Polish Defence Minister Mariusz BLASZCZAK disclosed on 28 May 2019 that Warshaw has requested to buy 32 F-35As from the U.S. “Today we sent a Request for Quotation (LOR) to our American partners regarding the purchase of 32 F-35A aircraft along with a logistics and training package,” BLASZCZAK tweeted. Tokyo has planned to add 63 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs to its order, in addition to the already placed request for 42 F-35As. The Japanese Air Force has lost one of its F-35As when the stealth fighter jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean on 9 April 2019 during an exercise because the 41-year-old pilot, who had only 60 flying hours in the F-35A, lost his “spatial awareness”. Vice Adm. Mat Winter, the F-35’s Program Executive, said in April 2019 that 50-75 aircraft could be delayed over a two-year period if Turkey is removed from the JSF Program. President ERDOĞAN, on the other hand, on Tuesday, 30 April 2019 stressed that the F-35 JSF Program would collapse if Turkey did not participate.

Following the Turkish MoND AKAR’s acknowledgement that Turkish military personnel had been sent to Russia for training on the S-400 AMDS, in early June 2019 the then Acting U.S. Secretary of Defence Patrick SHANAHAN (he served as Acting Secretary of Defence from 1 January 2019, to 23 June 2019 and announced his resignation on 18 June 2019. U.S. President TURMP named Mark T. ESPER, the Secretary of the Army and a former Raytheon Executive, to take over as Acting Secretary of Defence) took significant steps toward cutting Turkey out of the F-35 JSF Program over concerns about planned delivery of the first Russian S-400 Triumph AMDS Battery to TurAF in June/July 2019 time frame. In a letter signed on 6 June to Turkish MoND AKAR, the then Acting U.S. Secretary of Defence SHANAHAN told his Turkish counterpart that the 42 TurAF students/trainees (4 pilots and 38 maintainers) attending F-35 training at Luke AFB in Arizona and at Eglin AFB in Florida must leave the country by 31 July 2019 and training for new students has been halted. The 31 July 2019 deadline would allow 30 of the 42 TurAF trainees to complete their training, but the remainder would be sent home before their training naturally concluded. According to the letter, all TurAF personnel, including 2 instructor pilots, in the U.S. related to the F-35 JSF Program will be required to depart the country. And since all of their international travel orders will be cancelled, the TurAF personnel will be prohibited from entering the Luke AFB or Eglin AFB and applicable buildings. According to the letter all actions taken on the F-35 are based on the risks that the S-400 presence in Turkey would have and they are separate from the Russia-related CAATSA sanctions. In addition to sending the existing TurAF trainees back to Turkey, training for the 34 Turkish students scheduled to arrive in the U.S. later this year - 20 in June and 14 between July and November - will be also suspended, according to the document. 

In addition, the document states that Turkish Defence and Aerospace Industry will receive no new workshare in the F-35 JSF Program; its existing work “will be transitioned to alternate sources as they are qualified”. Major Turkish suppliers that are taking part in the program are planned to be eliminated from the F-35 JSF Program starting from early 2020 and their work pages would be transferred to other countries unless Turkey reverses course on its plan to deploy S-400 Triumph ADMS from July 2019 onwards. “Turkey still has the option to change course. If Turkey does not accept delivery of the S-400, we will enable Turkey to return to normal F-35 Program activities,” Ellen LORD, Undersecretary of Defence for Acquisition and Sustainment at U.S. DoD, told reporters on 7 June 2019. The U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) has repeatedly warned Turkey over the past year that the purchase of the S-400 AMDS would result in the suspension of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 JSF Program and in April 2019 suspended delivery of F-35 materials and related equipment to Turkey including AT-05 and AT-06 aircraft, which were previously scheduled to be delivered to Turkey in November 2019 and had originally planned to be flown by Turkish pilots to the 7th MJB during November of 2019.

However, according to reports dated 10 June 2019 even the U.S. DoD formally gave Turkey a deadline of 31 July to scrap the deal for S-400 Triumph AMDS, the USAF has already grounded the 6 TurAF pilots, 2 Instructor Pilots and 4 student pilots, training on the F-35 JSF jets in the U.S. and cut off their access to the aircraft’s restricted information due to “safety” concerns. According to U.S. media Brig. Gen. Todd D. CANTERBURY, Commander of the 56th Fighter Wing, on Friday, 7 June 2019 made the decision to immediately ground the TurAF pilots and restrict their access to the “vault,” which holds state secrets and classified materials. The 63rd Fighter Squadron (FS) is one of three fighter squadrons in the 56th Fighter Wing that train F-35 pilots. According U.S. the grounding was billed as an “operational pause” so that if Turkey decides to scrap the S-400 deal at the last minute, the TurAF pilots would resume their training. 

Should Turkey move forward with the S-400 purchase, it could trigger additional sanctions from the U.S. Congress as part of CAATSA Meanwhile according to Haber Türk, production of the first S-400 Triumph System destined to the TurAF has been completed and the system comprising two batteries left the final assembly line on 4 June 2019 following the uploading of special software into the system with the participation of Turkish officials. Haber Türk also claimed that a special Russian Team to be formed with 9 personnel will pay a visit to Turkey during 27-28 June 2019 to take part in the deployment of the first S-400 battery in Turkey. According to Haber Turk, Russia plans to complete deployment of the first TurAF S-400 Triumph battery until 15 July 2019.

On 16 June 2019 speaking to reporters on his plane while returning from a visit to Tajikistan, where he attended a summit and met Russian President Vladimir PUTIN, President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN announced that delivery of the Russian-made S-400 Triumph Air & Missile Defence Systems would begin during the first half of July 2019. ERDOĞAN also underlined that he would discuss the issue with U.S. President Donald TRUMP when they meet at the G-20 Osaka Summit, held on 28-29 June 2019 in Japan. Regarding the possibility of Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 Program and the U.S. sanctions to be imposed against Turkey on 20 June 2019, ERDOĞAN said, “If the U.S. does something wrong, Turkey will appeal to international courts to be refunded its investments in the F-35 Program. The U.S. should think carefully before imposing sanctions on Turkey, we will respond with reciprocal sanctions.” Addressing his party’s group meeting at the Turkish Parliament on 25 June President ERDOĞAN said, “We will, hopefully, start receiving the S-400 air defence systems, which we ordered, next month.”“The S-400 issue is directly related to our sovereignty, and we will not backtrack from that.” 

F135 Turbofan Engine MRO&U Capability

Turkey has been given the approval to build/assemble its own F135-PW-100 turbofan engines and on 11 December 2014 was also assigned by the U.S. Department of Defence to be the first with European Regional F135 Engine Maintenance Repair Overhaul & Upgrade (MRO&U) capability.

For this purpose, the Engine Final Assembly/Check-Out (FACO) Line and the European Region Depot-Level Maintenance (DLM) Center is being established at the 1st Air Maintenance Factory Directorate (1st AMFD, the former 1st Air Supply Maintenance Center [ASMC]). A signing ceremony between the SSB and TEI for the JSF Project Engine Final Assembly Line Establishment, Activation and the 1st AMFD T-11 Test Cell Modification Phase Project’ was held on March 23, 2017 at the SSB Headquarters in Ankara, Turkey. The contract that became effective on 19 December 2017 and has a three-year schedule covers the establishment of the FACO Line at Hangar #10 of the 1st AMFD and the modification of the T-11 Test Cell at the 1st AMFD. 

According to contract the F135 FACO Line (for both the F135-PW-100 and F135-PW-600 type engines) will be established in 34 months and the modification of the T-11 Test Cell will be completed in 33 months. Following the completion of modification studies the T-11 Test Cell will gain the necessary capabilities and features for the testing of 5th Generation aircraft engines. According to the original schedule the qualification of the first F135-PW-100 engine and the T-11 Test Cell would be completed in the third quarter of 2020. With this capability the 1st AMFD would be able to perform F135 engine Depot Level Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade (MRO&U) activities of all F-35A and F-35B aircraft, to be procured by the European Countries under the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program. According to the SSB with F135 Engine MRO&U capability Turkey will be able to provide DLM service to at least 100 F135 engines per year starting from 2024. 

Construction of the Hangar #10 of the 1st AMFD was completed on 23 April 2019 and outfitting phase has been started. However since the U.S. Department of Defence has stopped delivery of F-35 materials and related equipment to Turkey in April 2019 this step also affected ongoing construction and outfitting process for the Engine Final Assembly/Check-Out (FACO) Line and the European Region Depot-Level Maintenance (DLM) Center at the 1st AMFD in Turkey. According to Elen LORD, U.S. DoD Undersecretary of Defence for Acquisition and Sustainment, the U.S. DoD has decided to stop its efforts to open a Pratt and Whitney F135 engine DLM Center in Turkey, instead, it will shift work to two European facilities unless Turkey will cancel the S-400 Triumph AMDS purchase from Russia and will stop delivery of the systems. On 14 May 2018 President of Defence Industries (SSB) İsmail DEMİR Ph.D. paid a visit to the 1st AMFD and inspected Hangar #10 and obtained first hand information on the T-11 Test Cell modification studies. SSB President DEMİR, on the same day wrote the following on his Twitter page: “As an F-35 project partner, we are continuing to fulfill all of our responsibilities and share of work.”


TF-X: National Combat Aircraft

The TF-X (Turkish Fighter – Experimental) is a proposed single seat, twin-engine all-weather air superiority fighter being developed by Turkish Aerospace (Turkish Aerospace) with technological assistance from BAE Systems.

In order to meet Turkish Air Force (TurAF) requirements beyond 2030, the National Combat Aircraft (which is abbreviated as MMU in Turkish), also known as TF-X, Development Program was launched in accordance with Decision No 545 adopted at the Defence Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) dated 15 December 2010. The MMU/TF-X was planned to replace the F-16C/D Fighting Falcon combat aircraft during the 2030s and Turkish Aerospace (Turkish Aerospace) was selected as the Prime Contractor. 

The contract for the Conceptual Design Development Project was signed between the Turkish Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) and Turkish Aerospace on 23 August 2011. Under the contract, involving a 24-month schedule which came into force on 29 September 2011, between 2011-2013 Prime Contractor Turkish Aerospace prepared three separate conceptual designs with technical support provided by SAAB Aircraft, selected as the Technical Support and Assistance Provider (TSAP). These three configurations are named as follows: 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). Under the ‘Concept Development and Preliminary Design Phase’, on 29 September 2013, Turkish Aerospace submitted the report for the designs and the results of the efforts carried out during the past two years to the SSB.

As a result of the proposal evaluations conducted during the Foreign Cooperation Company (FCC/YIF) selection process, it was decided to begin negotiations for the contract with British company BAE Systems on 12 November 2015 and as of December 2015, the Pre-Contract Studies with BAE Systems commenced. During the fourth quarter of 2016, the SSB and Turkish Aerospace confirmed that MMU/TF-X Program would go ahead with the single seat, twin-engine FX-1 design. The Preliminary Design (Phase-I Stage-I) contract was signed between Turkish Aerospace and SSB on 5 August 2016 and on 28 January 2017 in the presence of the Prime Ministers of Turkey and the United Kingdom, BAE Systems and Turkish Aerospace signed a US$156 Million agreement  to collaborate under the Preliminary Design (Phase-I Stage-I) Phase of the MMU/TF-X Program. The Turkish Aerospace-BAE Systems Collaboration Agreement became effective on 25 August 2017. 

The Project Implementation Schedule (To) was started on 17 September 2018 following the selection of TR Motor as the Prime Contractor and Supplier for the turbofan engines that will power the TF-X production aircraft. In October 2018 Turkish Aerospace selected General Electric (GE)’s F110 Turbofan Family, specifically the F110-GE-129 or F110-GE-132, to power the MMU/TF-X prototypes and initial batches of series production aircraft. On 8 November 2018 the SSB signed a Framework Agreement with TR Motor Power Systems for the development of a next generation turbofan engine that will power the MMU/TF-X, the Turkish Fighter aircraft. To support the MMU/TF-X Program Turkish Aerospace is establishing a new infrastructure in its facilities in Ankara. In this context for example, to carry out the MMU/TF-X Program Turkish Aerospace is constructing a new facility at the Ankara Aerospace Industrial Zone, a total of 2,700 engineers will be employed at this facility. Moreover, on 2 May 2019, during the IDEF ‘19 Fair held in Istanbul, Turkey, Turkish Aerospace signed an agreement with Aiolos Engineering Corporation, based in Canada, for the construction of a ‘’Subsonic Wind-tunnel’’ at the Turkish Aerospace facilities in Ankara to support the MMU/TF-X and other future programs. Turkish Aerospace aims to build one of the World’s three ‘’Subsonic Wind-Tunnels’’, and put it into operation in 2023. Turkish Aerospace also previously signed a contract on 19 July 2018 with the company Aircraft Research Association (ARA), an independent research and development organization providing a range of specialist services to the worldwide aerospace industry, of the UK regarding the risk reduction phase of the wind tunnel tests for the TF-X aircraft. The highest level of quality wind tunnel data is required to verify an aerodynamic design. Since Turkey presently lacks a sufficient infrastructure in high-speed wind tunnel testing, there is a plan to utilize BAE Systems capabilities in this field during TF-X’s wind tunnel test phase especially at supersonic speeds. The BAE Systems Wind Tunnel facility is home to two tunnels, known respectively as the low speed and high-speed tunnels. In the latter, tests can be carried out at speeds up to Mach 3,8, which makes it perfect for transonic work.

The MMU/TF-X Program will be carried out under three Phases as the Preliminary Design (Phase-I Stage-I, September 2018 - September 2022), Detailed Design & Qualification (Phase-I Stage-II, September 2022 – September 2028), Acquisition of Initial Operation Capability and Full Operation Capability (IOC/FOC, Phase-II, September 2028 – December 2031) and Serial Production (Phase-III, 2032-2035+). Turkish Aerospace was designated as the Prime Contractor for the MMU/TF-X Development Program’s Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase in line with the DIEC Decision made in April 2015. Under the Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase, which will end up with completion of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) document, beyond the design and development of the TF-X aircraft, engineering capabilities, technology development activities (for key sensors like radar, electronic warfare, etc.), test infrastructure establishment and certification processes will be performed and extensive capabilities for a new generation jet fighter design, development and production will be gained by the Turkish Defence & Aerospace Industry. 

As of June 2019, the Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase (Phase-I Stage-I) is continuing and is scheduled for completion in September of 2022. Developing a stealth fighter is an expensive enterprise. The 4-year schedule for the Preliminary Design Phase is expected to cost around US$1,3 Billion (according to Turkish Aerospace President & CEO Temel KOTİL around US$300-400 Million of this figure will be allocated for infrastructural investment and around US$1 Billion for the engineers) and to be followed by a 9-year Detailed Design & Qualification schedule (which also covers Critical Design Review [CDR] and Prototype Production and the Qualification Phase) and the Acquisition of IOC/FOC, which are estimated to cost around US$7,3 Billion. At the end of 13-years and US$8,6 Billion (US$8,2 Billion is expected to be spent until the first prototype’s maiden flight) in expenses, a total of seven MMU/TF-X prototypes (six for flight tests and one for ground tests) in three different configurations dubbed Block-0 (first test model which will be rolled out in 2023), Block-I (air-superiority model planned to achieve IOC in 2028) and Block-II (multi-role model with air superiority plus air-to-ground capabilities, planned to achieve FOC in 2031) will be manufactured for test, evaluation and qualification purposes. Another US$14 Billion is earmarked for the Serial Production of the MMU/TF-X fighters.

According to Turkish Aerospace President & CEO KOTİL, during next 10-year period a total of 10,000 Turkish and foreign (including those from BAE Systems) engineers from different disciplines, those with supersonic fighter design and manufacture experience (know-how) will work under the MMU/TF-X Program. Under the contract BAE System will provide 400 personnel/year engineering support for a period of 4 years to Turkish Aerospace under the Engineering Development & Preliminary Design Phase (Phase-I Stage-I) of the MMU/TF-X Program. As of June 2019 a total of 300 Turkish Aerospace engineers from different disciplines are currently taking part in MMU/TF-X design activities. BAE Systems supports design of the MMU/TF-X with some 100 engineers based in Ankara.

Turkish Fighter and Indigenous Turbofan Engine

The MMU/TF-X, or Turkish Fighter (Turkish Aerospace, refers to this program as Turkish Fighter [TF] and exclude the X at the end of its title with an emphasis that it is no longer an Experimental aircraft) will be a single-seat, twin-engine combat aircraft (based on FX-1 concept) with Low Observability and Super Cruise capabilities and is to be equipped with indigenously developed systems and sensors. Replacing the F-16C/Ds currently in the service of the TurAF during the first quarter of the 2030s, the Turkish Fighter will be a fifth-generation indigenous air superiority fighter with secondary ground attack capability, which will escort and provide air protection to the TurAF’s F-35A Lighting II fleet. The TurAF currently operates 238 F-16C/D aircraft and Turkey is likely to procure some 150 TF-X in the long term to replace F-16s.

In December 2017 Turkish Aerospace released the technical specifications of the Turkish Fighter. According to Turkish Aerospace, the Turkish Fighter will measure 19 meters (60ft) long, have a 12-meter wingspan, around 60m² (670ft²) wing area and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 60,000lbs+ (27,215kg+). Powered with a pair of over 20,000lb class turbofan engines, the Turkish Fighter is intended to have a maximum speed of Mach 2, a service ceiling of over 55,000 feet, and a combat radius of over 600 nautical miles according to the Turkish Fighter technical specifications document.

However following the selection of bigger and more powerful engines to power prototypes and series production aircraft the technical specifications of the Turkish Fighter have also been changed. According to Turkish Aerospace engineers taking part in Turkish Fighter design activities, the length of the fuselage has been extended to accommodate larger engines and to stabilize the extended fuselage wingspan dimension which has been enlarged. Moreover, in order to provide better air-flow into new more powerful engines the design of the air intakes have been revised and enlarged. As a result of these revisions on the aircraft design, which stem from the selection of bigger and more powerful engines, the length of the Turkish Fighter has been increased to 21 meters and its wingspan has been increased to 14 meters. The Turkish Fighter will have a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 while running on two engines (each generating 27,000 lb thrust). It will also have a height of 6 meters, maximum takeoff weight of 60,000 lb, a maximum altitude of 55,000+ feet, and a combat radius of 600+ nautical miles.

After several years of confusion surrounding the Turkish Fighter (TF)’s engine choice, TR Motor Power Systems, a national engine consortium (formed by BMC Power [55%], Turkish Aerospace [35%] and the SSB [10%]) was created and became operational in April 2018 to develop a 27,000 lb class indigenous turbofan engine for TF production models. Within the scope of efforts initiated regarding the procurement of turbofan engines to power the TF prototypes and the initial batches of series production aircraft, in October 2018 Turkish Aerospace selected General Electric (GE)’s F110 Turbofan Family, specifically the F110-GE-129 or F110-GE-132. The F110-GE-129 has a maximum thrust rating of 29,500 lb, while the F110-GE-132 produces up to 32,000lb of take-off thrust. The F110-GE-129 Turbofan Engine with a thrust capacity of 129kN are currently employed in F-16C/D Blok 50 (F110-GE-129 IPE) and Blok 50+ (F110-GE-129B) aircraft in TurAF service. Featuring a radial rather than a spray-bar augmentor design and incorporates a number of component differences to improve durability the F110-GE-132 (142kN) Engine is used on F-16E/F Desert Falcon aircraft in the inventory of United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Forces. Incorporating an all-bladed disk (blisk) fan and new low-loss radial A/B, the F110-GE-132 grew the F110 Family to 32,000lb of thrust, a 10% increase over the F110-GE-129. The higher thrust of the -132 is accomplished without a physical size increase and required no changes to the F-16 inlet.  F110-GE-132 has latest state of the art technology, culminating 32,000lb of thrust, making it the highest thrust engine available in its class at. According to GE, the capability of a 10-20% thrust growth still exists within the current engine envelop. So, the current F110-GE-132 could be developed to offer 35,000lb (155,7kN) of take-off thrust to satisfy a new-platform requirement.

The F110 Turbofan Family is a stopgap solution until Turkey has built its indigenous turbofan engine for the MMU/TF. On 8 November 2018 the SSB signed a Framework Agreement with TR Motor Power Systems for the development of a next generation turbofan engine that will power the MMU/TF or Turkish Fighter, aircraft. Speaking at the signing ceremony SSB President İsmail DEMİR said the final goal is that the engine would not face limitations from foreign countries in terms of use and exports, and for Turkey to control all technological features and Intellectual Property (IP) rights. SSB President DEMİR noted that development of the indigenous turbofan engine would be a long process, nearly 10 years, and the agreement that was signed with TR Motor will serve as a framework in this process. On the occasion of the signing ceremony on 8 November a computer generated image (CGI) of TR Motor’s Turkish Indigenous Turbofan Engine was also shared with the media. Our initial analyses suggest that the current design has several similarities in terms of internal configuration with the F110 Turbofan Family. In this context for example, like the F110-GE-129 and -132 engines Turkish Indigenous Turbofan Engine also features Variable Inlet Guide Vane and as in the case with the F110-GE-132 engine it features “blisks” (bladed-disks) in the three-stage modular fan section in lieu of traditional blades to improve performance and maintainability. The engine also incorporates one High Power turbine (HPT) and a Low Power Turbine (LPT). According to our sources the Turkish Indigenous Turbofan Engine to be supplied by TR Motor Power Systems will have similar dimensions and weight with F110 Turbofan Family. Speaking on the MMU/TF Program on a televised interview held on 13 June 2018 President of Defence Industries (SSB) Prof. DEMİR had underlined that as of June 2018 50 engineers were working/studying on Turkish Fighter engine and 10 experienced and valuable engineers have been brought to Turkey from abroad via reverse brain drain. SSB DEMİR had also stressed that knowledge on aircraft engines in Turkey would be gathered under the umbrella of the TR Motor Power Systems. TR Motor Power Systems facilities (dubbed as Technology Base) is located at Hacettepe Teknokent (Technopolis) in Ankara.

According to Turkish Aerospace engineers taking part in Turkish Fighter design activities under the Detailed Design & Qualification (Phase-I Stage-II, September 2022 – September 2028) Phase, a total of seven Turkish Fighter prototypes (six for flight tests and one for ground tests) in three different configurations namely; Block-0, Block-I and Block-II however during the Paris Air Show 2019 it was reported that there will be five Turkish Fighter prototypes. On June 23, 2019 Turkish Aerospace President & CEO Temel KOTİL disclosed that they have ordered 5 turbofan engines from General Electric (GE) and at the moment they are at delivery sate. “We will use F-16 engines (probably F110-GE-129E version due to twin engine configuration) in the first prototypes of TF-X in first flights. Development of indigenous turbofan engine is continuing” KOTİL added. We estimate four of the engines will be installed on two of Turkish Fighter prototypes and the fifth engine will be used as spare.

If Turkey proceeds with the S-400 Triumph AMDS contract rather than acquiring a Western made weapons system, the U.S. will apply economic sanctions on Turkey under the CAATSA. This, in turn, could make it difficult for the U.S., and even European defence companies to conduct business in Turkey. In this context, the U.S. Congress could also block any cooperation (such as the transfer of turbofan engines, avionics and sub-systems) between U.S. companies with Turkey over the MMU/TF Program. In such case it is clear that Turkey will not be able to afford to keep the MMU/TF Program on schedule and will potentially face significant drawbacks to turn the project into a reality.

Turkish Aerospace Revealed a Mock-up of Turkish Fighter at the Paris Air Show 2019

During the Paris Air Show, on 17 June 2019 Turkish Aerospace unveiled a full-sized mock-up of its next generation fighter  the Turkish Fighter. Speaking at the one-to-one mock-up of a Turkish Fighter aircraft presentation, Turkish Aerospace President & CEO Temel KOTİL said that when it enters the service, the Turkish Fighter will be “the best fighter in Europe” and capable of carrying the long-range, air-to-air METEOR missile of the European manufacturer MBDA. “We have increased our speed ... we have enough strength to build this fighter,” he added. Previously, the company had revealed its intentions to fly the Turkish Fighter in 2026. However during his address, Turkish Aerospace President & CEO KOTİL disclosed that the aircraft would be completed in 2023, with first flight in 2025 and the next generation fighter will enter service with the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) in 2028. “Once we develop the Turkish Fighter, we will become the world’s fourth country to have this type of aircraft. Meanwhile; Japan, the Republic of Korea, Iran and India are also working on similar projects. So there is a competition between countries,” KOTİL added. The ceremony was attended by Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Commander General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Affendi bin BUANG. Turkey has been looking for international joint development partners to collaborate with Turkish Aerospace and various Turkish sub-contractors on the MMU/TF Program, and Malaysia is one of the potential candidates for this role.

According to reports, the full-size mock-up Turkish Fighter, which was constructed by recently established Turkish Aerospace-KALAY Joint Venture Company in Germany in 35 months, cost the company almost Euro2 Million (US$ 2,25 Million). According to Turkish Aerospace, the METEOR active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) was selected by the TurAF for the Turkish Fighter since the beginning of the Program and during the Conceptual Design Development Phase, which was carried out between September 2011 – September 2013, necessary information was obtained from the manufacturing company to integrate the METEOR missile into the Turkish Fighter and aircraft design (such as weapons bay) was prepared in accordance with METEOR missile’s technical specifications.

Within the course of the Turkish Fighter development program, new capabilities and equipment will be added to the aircraft under a “Block Development Approach”. In each Block, the level of local content ratio will also be increased. The first Turkish Fighter prototype will be in Block-0 configuration and is expected to be rolled-out in 2023, when Turkey will celebrate its 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic. Following the ground tests, the maiden flight will be performed with the first prototype aircraft. The Block-0 configuration will not feature either stealth capability or some of the main internal avionics and equipment (such as AESA radar) and various sub-systems onboard the aircraft will be procured from abroad such as turbofan engines, integrated cockpit display system (panoramic cockpit display) and landing gears. The Block-I prototypes will be in air superiority configuration and the first aircraft that enter TurAF service in 2028 will be in Block-I configuration. The TuRAF will achieve/declare IOC with Block-I Turkish Fighters. According to Turkish Aerospace, the TurAF originally planned for the first entry into service to occur in 2029 but since the company has accelerated its efforts the entry into service date was able to be moved to an earlier time. Turkish Aerospace will start Block-II deliveries in 2031 and following their entrance into TurAF service FOC will be declared. The Turkish Fighter Block-IIs, multi-role model with air superiority plus air-to-ground capabilities, will feature increased local content share thanks to their indigenously developed engines, sub-systems and avionics.  

In every aspect of size – height, weight, wingspan, weight – the Turkish Fighter is bigger than the existing 5th Generation fighters including F-22, F-35, Su-57, J-20 and KF-X. Nevertheless, the overall design of the Turkish Fighter mock-up bears similar features (such as twin-engine and canted vertical tail design) to the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters, but with a narrower and longer fuselage and wider wingspan. The Turkish Fighter has a long and wide fuselage and a chiseled nose section with a frameless canopy. The air intakes are situated immediately behind the cockpit. In order to avoid radar detection the vertical tail of the aircraft has been designed in a canted manner. Further examination shows that all of the surfaces and the edges of the aircraft are smoothly blended, however contrary to many stealth fighter designs the mock-up still has exposed exhaust nozzles (without thrust vectoring capability), perhaps during the next phases of the ongoing development process engines would be buried deep inside the fuselage. The Turkish Fighter also has both cheek and ventral internal weapons bays like the F-22 Raptor. 

Even if it will be an all-weather, multirole fighter, the Turkish Fighter’s primary role would be air-superiority. Since the aircraft designed for air-to-air combat from the beginning, the Turkish Fighter has weapons bay designed accordingly. The main bay, located on the bottom of the fuselage, can hold up to four launchers for air-to-air medium/long range (Beyond Visual Range/BVR) missiles and air-to-ground munitions and missiles weighing between 250 lb to 2,000 lb. Each of the side weapons bay, on the left and right of the fuselage, can hold two launchers for short-range air-to-air missiles. The Turkish Fighter will also have a total of four (two on each wing) underwing pylons on which both the air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions/missiles (NATO and Indigenous Weapons) can be integrated. Carrying the missiles and munitions on the underwing pylons would cost the Turkish Fighter its stealthiness. Turkish Aerospace has already launched an international tender to procure an undisclosed quantity of Suspension and Release Equipment (SARE) for integration onto Turkish Fighter prototypes and production aircraft. The SARE solution for the Turkish Fighter refers to the suite of equipment required to meet the requirements for carriage and release of a variety of weapons and stores in a variety of locations inside and outside the aircraft. Bidders are asked to submit their proposals by the end June 2019. According to sources the proposal is also covers an option for co-design and co-production of launchers in Turkey. Cobham, which also secured a contract in August 2017 to provide Missile Eject Launchers for the KF-X fighter aircraft is one of the bidders for this tender. Cobham is expected to offer Cobham Mission Systems (CMS) Fox-10 Lightweight (33kg) Advanced Missile Launcher as part of the SARE solution for the Turkish Fighter. The lightweight and ITAR free launcher is designed to carry both Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (SRAAM) and Beyond-Visual-Range Missiles (BVRAAM)  

HürJet New Generation AJT & LCA Development Project

Development of the Turkish Fighter will likely be preceded by that of the HürJet New Generation Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) & Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which Turkish Aerospace hopes will replace T-38M jet trainer fleet in the service of the TurAF.

HürJet New Generation AJT & Light Attack Aircraft is being developed by Turkish Aerospace under a Protocol signed between Turkish Aerospace, the SSB and the TurAF on 2 July 2018. The initial studies for the “Advanced Jet Trainer & Light Attack Aircraft (Hürjet) Project”  were started in July 2017 and the Project was officially launched on 14 August 2017, as a company funded project (which was funded from Turkish Aerospace’ own resources) after receiving a green light to go ahead from the Turkish Aerospace Board. 

The Conceptual Design Phase (CDP) of the HürJet Project was completed in April 2018 as of July 2019 engineering and analysis studies as part of its Preliminary Design Review (PDR) Phase activities have been completed successfully. In this context, TUSAS engineers have recently completed wind tunnel tests with a HürJet’s 1/10 model to confirm the existing configuration. Since the HürJet model that underwent the wind tunnel test was configured in accordance with GE’s F404-GE-102 turbofan engine, the design of the air intakes will be revised and enlarged to meet more powerful EJ200 engine and further wind tunnel tests will be carried out to confirm revisions on air intake design. The PDR Phase will be followed by the Critical Design Review (CDR) and Test Readiness Review (TRR) Phases. The CDR Phase is scheduled to be launched in 2019 and to be completed in 2020. Where as the Test Readiness Review (TRR) Phase is planned to be completed in 2021. The first HürJet prototype is planned to perform its maiden flight in 2022.

The Hürjet Project is aimed at the development of an indigenous new generation Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), capable of supersonic flight to replace the T-38M jet trainer fleet in the service of the TurAF, and a Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) able to perform a Close Air Support (CAS) role to assist and release the load on the TurAF’s F-16C/Ds shoulders. The indigenous jet trainer HürJet will be utilized to train and prepare pilots for the next generation F-35A and MMU/TF aircraft in the 2030s, replacing the aging T-38M jet trainers in service with the TurAF. Currently the TurAF operates 68 T-38M Advanced Jet Trainers in Advanced Jet Training and Combat Readiness Transition Training at Çiğli Air Base (2nd Main Jet Base Command) in Izmir. 

According to Protocol, the HürJet prototypes (a total of five) will be manufactured in two different configurations; the AJT and the LCA. The AJT will be produced in the first configuration while the second will be an armed variant. In the LCA variant, a fire control radar, external payloads (on six external hardpoints and up to 2,721kg [6,000 lb] according to infographic prepared and distributed by the SSB on 22 July 2018), a fire control system and various mission systems will be integrated. The HürJet AJT prototype is expected to perform its maiden flight in 2022 and to enter TurAF service in 2025.

In order to attract the attention of potential international customers Turkish Aerospace previously showcased a full-scale mock-up (indeed a ground prototype of the aircraft) of the HürJet AJT & LCA, with single turbofan engine (F404-GE-102, which offers 17,000lb thrust with afterburner) and having underwing stores of indigenous air-to-air (GÖKDOĞAN/Peregrine short-range IIR guided AAMs) and air-to-ground (UMTAS and TEBER-82) weapon systems as well as BNA’s external fuel tank, for the first time at the Farnborough International Airshow 2018, which took place during 16-22 July, in London, UK. 

As a clean-sheet design the single-engine, twin-seat HürJet will be Turkey’s first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world’s few supersonic trainers. The aircraft is 13m (42,6ft) in length, 4,2m (13,7ft) in height, has 9,8m (32,1ft wingspan and 24m2 (25831ft2) wing area. The figures related the predicted empty weight and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of the aircraft have not been publicized yet. Previously the HürJet prototypes were planned to be powered by a GE’s 17,000lb thrust class F404-GE-102 turbofan engine. A number of series productions of HürJet were also planned to be powered by F404 turbofans (to be manufactured under license in Turkey). However in April 2019 Turkish Aerospace changed its decision on the engine type to be installed on HürJet and revised the HürJet’s engine thrust from 17,000lb to 19,200lb. At that time Klimov’s RD93 turbofan engine, which generates combat thrust of 19,200lb with after burner was considered among the selections. But during Paris Air Show 2019 a Letter of Intent  (LoI) was signed between Turkish Aerospace and Eurojet Turbo GmbH for the delivery of EJ200 turbofan engines (single engine configuration). The LoI was signed by Turkish Aerospace President & CEO Temel KOTİL and EuroJet CEO Clemens LINDEN. Since the EJ200 turbofan engine, which is considered to be the benchmark in the 20,000lb thrust class military engine market, was specifically was designed to power the twin-engine Eurofighter Typhoon, two major modifications should be done on the EJ200 to convert it into a single engine fighter engine. Turkish Aerospace also displayed the HürJet mock-up during the Paris Air Show 2019 at its stand. According to the HürJet Technical Specification Table that was on display in front of the HürJet mock-up, the maximum speed of the HürJet will be Mach 1,4 (it was Mach 1,2 with 17,000lb engine); the service ceiling will be 13,716m (45,000ft) and the climb rate will be 35,000ft/minute (it was 25,000ft/minute with 17,000lb engine). The HürJet will be able to perform +8G/-3G maneuver and capable of sustaining 6,5G at an altitude of 15,000ft and up to Mach 0,9 speed. The range of the aircraft will be 2,592km (1,400nm)