ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish government is keen to revive talks with Rolls-Royce for the design and production of its first indigenous fighter jet, the TF-X, a top cabinet minister has said.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the government wants to move forward with its planned cooperation with Britain for the production of the new-generation aircraft. But Turkey must first select an engine for the TF-X and then finalize the aircraft’s full design — a process that has has lagged behind schedule.
Its aerospace and procurement officials now aim to fly the TF-X in the 2025-2026 time frame, despite an original target of 2023.
A £100 million (U.S. $132 million) deal between Rolls-Royce and Turkish manufacturer Kale Group was effectively put on hold amid uncertainties over technology transfer.
In October 2016, Rolls-Royce offered a joint production partnership to Turkey to power Turkey’s planned platforms. The offer also involved potential sales to third parties. The British company’s proposal also included a production unit in Turkey to manufacture engines for the TF-X, as well as for helicopters, tanks and missiles.
A year before that, in October 2015, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Turkey and Rolls-Royce for technological know-how and a production unit. Under the plan, Rolls-Royce would launch an advanced manufacturing and technology center in Turkey ― the company’s eighth such unit worldwide.
Also in 2017, BAE Systems and Turkish Aerospace Industries, the prime contractor of TF-X, signed a $125 million heads of agreement to collaborate on the first development phase of the planned fifth-generation fighter jet.
After its membership in the U.S.-led, multinational Joint Strike Fighter program was suspended, Turkey started to look for alternatives for an off-the-shelf bridge gap solution until its own fighter jet can be built. Talks with Russia are underway for a potential Su-35 or Su-57 deal, according to officials in Ankara and Moscow.
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.