ANKARA, Turkey —Turkey’s defense procurement agency has officially launched a competition to combine all information systems on the country’s planned F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation multirole fighter jets to the Turkish Air Forces’ system network.

The Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM in its Turkish acronym) dubs the program F-35/Air Force Information System Integration Project.

Under the program, the successful contender will connect the information systems installed on the F-35 fighter aircraft with the Air Forces’ information systems network, otherwise known as HvBS.

“The program involves safe connection of information systems elements between the F-35 aircraft and the Air Forces’ information systems network as well as safe sharing of classified information between these systems,” SSM said.

SSM has asked bidders to suggest solutions by Feb. 28. SSM’s department for cybersecurity and electronic warfare systems will be in charge of the program.

Turkey is a partner in the U.S.-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program. 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, and its second order in October 2016.

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 TF-X, that Ankara has been designing under a know-how contract with BAE Systems.

Industry sources said the program to build critical links between the F-35 aircraft and Turkey’s combined Air Force command network probably won’t cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but it was tagged as “strategic” by the procurement authority.

“This program will test the technological capabilities of Turkey’s local industry,” a source said. “The political idea is to earn as much indigenous software space as possible while at the same time remaining within the [JSF] program.”

Turkish officials have said the idea behind the TF-X program is to build a fighter fleet independent of foreign technology.

Burak Ege Bekdil was the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.

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