ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has chosen an American-made engine for its future fighter jet TF-X, but the country will also work with Russia to locally produce aircraft parts, according to Turkey’s top procurement official.
Ismail Demir, who leads Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries, said Dec. 4 that the TF-X program will initially use General Electric’s F110 engine, an afterburning turbofan jet engine produced by the subsidiary GE Aviation.
General Electric’s non-afterburning F118 engine is already produced in Turkey under license in Eskisehir Tusas Engine Industries, a government-controlled company.
The next phase of the TF-X program will involve modifications, development, improvements and switching to local production, Demir said.
“We will negotiate with Russia about [TF-X] parts we want to locally produce,” he added. “There are no problems about the [F110] engine procurement.”
But analysts say Congress most likely won’t endorse engine sales to Turkey.
“It is not a secret that the general mood about Turkey in Congress is very gloomy. I am observing a kind of over-optimism in Ankara about a U.S.-made engine,” said Ozgur Eksi, an Ankara-based defense analyst.
Turkish Aerospace Industries, a sister company of Tusas Engine Industries is designing, developing and building the TF-X. A source at TAI, who spoke to Defense News on the condition of anonymity, said that “Russia has the technology in aeroacoustic, aerothermodynamics and the infrastructure to build a fighter jet. Russia has the technology [in its Su-57 fighter] to build a fifth-generation turbofan engine. Cooperation would also involve avionics, propulsion system, radar, sensors, ejection seat and data link systems.”
The Presidency of Defense Industries recently issued a request for proposals to Turkish companies for the development of an indigenous engine to power the TF-X. Demir said the RFP aims to create a road map for building fighter jet engine technology in Turkey.
“The [RFP] is a new step in our national engine development effort,” he said.
In July 2019, the U.S. removed Turkey from the American-led, multinational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program in response to Ankara’s decision to acquire and deploy the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.
Turkey has since given pace to the TF-X program. The government earmarked an additional $1.3 billion for Phase 1 of the TF-X program. A total of 6,000 engineers are working on the program, and Turkish Aerospace Industries said it will soon build its first hangar for the aircraft. The company’s CEO said earlier this year it will also build Europe’s second-best wind tunnel for the TF-X.
Turkey aims to take the first TF-X out of the hangar in 2023 and fly it in 2025 or 2026.
In November, Turkey also decided to buy a batch of 40 F-16 Block 70 fighters.
Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.