ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s top defense procurement panel has agreed to officially order a second batch of F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation multirole fighter aircraft under the multinational Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.
Friday's meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee (SSIK in its Turkish acronym) brought together Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Defence Minister Fikri Isik and Army Gen. Hulusi Akar, chief of the General Staff. SSIK is Turkey’s top authority in procurement matters.
Under the JSF program, Turkey has committed to procure a total of 116 aircraft. Turkey placed its first JSF order in 2014 under its low-rate initial production 10 program.
Turkey’s procurement and military officials are hoping to build a new-generation, dual-fighter jet fleet by their country’s centennial, 2023, comprising of the F-35 and an indigenous aircraft, known as TFX, that Ankara has been designing. Turkey hopes to receive its first F-35 in 2018.
SSIK said in a news release after the meeting that panel members discussed a total of 12 different programs, including JSF.
One program discussed at the meeting is a plan for the procurement of two command and control aircraft. Earlier this year, Turkey’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM in its Turkish acronym) launched an international competition for the program. SSM said the planned aircraft should accommodate 12 passengers.
Aerospace industry sources expect the price tag with the contract to be anywhere between $50 million and $100 million, depending on the Turkish military's configuration requirement. The planned aircraft will be used as VIP business jets for the Turkish military, with command and control capabilities for the top military brass.
In 2006, the Turkish military selected Gulfstream G550 for the same mission. In 2008, it decided to buy two G550 aircraft.
At the Friday meeting, SSIK decided to task THY Teknik, the repair and maintenance subsidiary of Turkey's national carrier, Turkish Airlines, with administering the command and control aircraft program.
SSIK also said it decided to procure more vessels for the Turkish navy, although it did not detail the number or type of ships on its shopping list.
The panel said it authorized SSM to launch a contest for the modernization of a batch of 25 Seahawk helicopters in the Navy's inventory. In November 2006, Turkey ordered its last package of S-70B Seahawk helicopters from Sikorsky Aircraft. The S-70B helicopter is an international derivative of the US Navy's SH-60B Seahawk, but includes a fully integrated glass (digital) cockpit and a mission management system.
SSIK said some of the other programs its members discussed on Friday include the Integrated Maritime Surveillance System (IMSS) program; the foundation of a cybersecurity and defense center; electronic warfare command, control and coordination efforts; a national joint electronic warfare data bank; new-generation light-armored vehicles; procurement of portable jammers; and electronic support systems.
One procurement official said the meeting marked the first serious effort to give pace to Turkey's modernization and acquisition programs after a putsch on July 15 brought the procurement and military bureaucracy to a near standstill.
"Finally the shock is over and things are picking up," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "SSIK convened with a heavy agenda and both the government and military leaders look determined to get things done without further delays."
One Defence Ministry official said: "The first [post-coup attempt] meeting was important. Preceding meetings will discuss other major programs, including TFX."