Turkey sets timetable for critical phase of its fighter jet program

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Turkey sets timetable for critical phase of its fighter jet program

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Turkey sets timetable for critical phase of its fighter jet program
By: Burak Ege Bekdil 7 hours ago Turkey sets timetable for critical phase of its fighter jet program Turkey sets timetable for critical phase of its fighter jet program Turkish Aerospace Industries is the prime local contractor for the TF-X program. (Adam Berry/AFP via Getty Images)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s defense procurement authorities have given pace to their work to select an engine know-how supplier that will be the backbone of the TF-X, an indigenous Turkish fighter jet in the making.

“We may not hold onto our original target of officially announcing a technology partner (for the engine) in January, but we will come very close to it,” said a senior procurement official familiar with the program.

At the end of October, Turkey’s top procurement official, Ismail Demir, said his office would announce its decision on the TF-X engine in January 2018.

An official from Turkish Aerospace Industries, the prime local contractor for the TF-X program, said talks with a number of potential technology suppliers and their local partners have recently matured enough to give decision-makers a clear picture.

“The idea is to rely on foreign technology in order to build, in the longer term, an indigenous engine that will power the TF-X,” the TAI official said. “I think we are close to an understanding.”

The TF-X program is run by the country’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries. But the decision on the engine will be made by the ultimate panel that oversees top procurement decisions ― the Defense Industry Executive Committee, which is chaired by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

In October 2016, engine-maker Rolls-Royce offered a joint production partnership to Turkey with a view to powering planned Turkish platforms and potential sales to third parties. The British company’s proposal involved a production unit in Turkey to manufacture engines for the TF-X, as well as for helicopters, tanks and missiles.

A year before that, in October 2015 a memorandum of understanding had been signed between Turkey and Rolls-Royce for technological know-how and a production unit. Under the plan, Rolls-Royce will launch an advanced manufacturing and technology center in Turkey ― the company’s eighth such unit worldwide.

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U.S. engine-maker Pratt & Whitney is also in the picture. In 2014, the company inaugurated its Turkish partnership with local aviation company Kale to produce critical engine parts for the multinational new-generation F-35 fighter jet. Kale Pratt & Whitney, the joint venture, will manufacture the parts of the F-135, the engine for the F-35.

Meanwhile, Tusas Engine Industries, a government-controlled engine maker and TAI’s sister company, is currently working to refine a 20-year road map for the design, development and manufacturing of a local aircraft engine, also with the aim of powering the TF-X.

Industry sources say the engine selection is the most critical phase in the TF-X program.

“All other design work will depend on the engine to be selected,” the TAI official said. “Once we have decided on the engine, the rest of the program will automatically gain pace.”