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.”