Coming Soon: Turkey's Very Own F-35 Like Stealth Fighter?

Mark Episkopos

Key point: Turkey continues to want a homegrown fighter, but it won't match the F-35. 

Turkey’s recent ejection from the F-35 program has spawned a wave of speculation as to the fate of Ankara’s procurement plans.

The Su-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab JAS 39 Gripen were advanced as prospective alternatives, with the former being seen as a particularly attractive option on the heels of the diplomatic goodwill generated by Turkey’s decision to import Russia’s S-400 system. But it is now emerging that the Turkish defense industry is actively pursuing an altogether different path: its own, domestically-built fifth-generation aircraft.

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) displayed an early pre-production model of their twin-engine TF-X fighter at last month’s Paris Air Show. TAI CEO TAI Temel Kotil is confident that the TF-X will enter serial production over the coming decade: “Our machine is a mock-up, but in 2023 there will be a real machine, and first flight is in 2025, and [it will be in] service in 2028,” he said at the unveiling. Kotil’s optimistic forecast is borne from TAI’s prior involvement with the F-35 partner program: “On the F-35, actually, my company is building the center fuselage.. so this means, in terms of manufacturing, Turkish Aerospace has enough strength to build this fighter.”

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