ANKARA, Turkey — Top officials from Turkey have met with a high-profile British delegation to discuss ways to go forward with plans to design, develop and build the TF-X, the Turkish indigenous fighter jet in the making.
The British delegation, including International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East, met Jan. 13 with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, chief procurement officer Ismail Demir, Turkish Aerospace Industries CEO Temel Kotil and other senior Turkish officials. TAI is the prime local contractor of the TF-X program.
A statement from the Turkish prime minister’s office said that during the meeting, “our content over cooperation and recent advancing of our strategic partnership with the United Kingdom via joint programs was expressed.”
An official in Yildirim’s office said the Turkish and British teams agreed to produce the first prototype of the TF-X in 2023, the centennial of the Turkish republic.
“Additional financing for the planned work in 2018 was also discussed, but this topic requires further negotiations,” the official said.
He said that a research and development road map was also discussed during talks in Ankara.
In January 2017, Britain and Turkey signed a deal worth more than £100 million (U.S. $137 million) to develop the Turkish fighter jet. The deal involves TAI and BAE Systems.
A few months later, in May, Rolls-Royce partnered with Turkish industrial group Kale with the aim of building engines for the TF-X. Rolls-Royce’s Turkish venture came less than a year after the company, in October 2016, 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.
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.
The Ankara meeting came at a time when Turkish officials are preparing to select an engine for the TF-X. In addition to Rolls-Royce, Tusas Engine Industries, TAI’s sister company and an engine specialist, expressed interest in powering the TF-X.
Turkish officials say they rely on foreign technology in order to build, in the longer term, an indigenous engine that will power the TF-X.
They say the choice of engine was the most critical step at this stage of the TF-X program. “All other design work will depend on the engine to be selected,” one official said. “Once we have decided on the engine, the rest of the program will automatically gain pace.”
The TF-X program is run by the country’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries. But the decision on the engine will be made by the ultimate panel that oversees top procurement decisions ― the Defence Industry Executive Committee, which is chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Burak Ege Bekdil is the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.