ANKARA — A top procurement meeting of Turkey's government and military leaders Jan. 7 produced several critical decisions, but officials and analysts agree a move to further efforts to build the country's first indigenous fighter aircraft was most important.
Turkey's top procurement panel decided to place an order for four more F-35 fighter jets and five more CH-47F Chinook heavy transport helicopters.
"The new order for the F-35 had been widely expected and it came as no surprise. This just confirms Turkey's commitment to the JSF program," an official familiar with the program said.
At the Jan. 7 meeting, SSIK also decided to move on to the "pre-design" phase in Turkey's bid to design, develop and produce an indigenous fighter jet.
"I think the most important of all decisions announced is to move ahead with the fighter program," a senior procurement official said. "The decision on the program means that we will be switching from the feasibility phase to pre-design phase. In other words, this is an official mark that says the program has been found technically and financially feasible."
An Ankara-based defense analyst agreed: "The government has now revealed its roadmap in the fighter program. Turkey clearly wants to make a 100 percent local aircraft. This rules out any deal with a foreign manufacturer based on a foreign model. In other words, 'Turkifying' a foreign aircraft is no longer an option."
"This is the most critical decision since the start of the program [that Turkey has decided to go for a local model]. Any foreign player keen to take part in the Turkish program would now have to offer solutions based on technological support at every level, instead of offering its own jet model," he said.
Burak Ege Bekdil is the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.