ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s top defense procurement official, Ismail Demir, said in an April 30 TV interview that the government will prioritize the production of its indigenous TF-X fighter jet amid an estimated loss of $1.4 billion for local industry following the country’s expulsion from the American-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

The U.S. decided to exclude Turkey from the multinational program in response to Ankara’s decision to acquire and deploy the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system. Turkish aerospace officials said domestic companies associated with the F-35 production effort are to fulfill commitments to manufacturing thousands of parts until next year, but the aircraft will not be delivered to the Turkish Air Force.

Turkish Aerospace Industries is designing, developing and will build the TF-X, aiming to fly the aircraft around the 2025-2026 time frame.

TAI CEO Temel Kotil said in an April 27 TV interview that “the government has earmarked an additional $1.3 billion to Phase 1 of the TF-X program. A total of 6,000 engineers are working on this program.”

He added his company will soon build the first hangar for the TF-X as well as what he called Europe’s second-best wind tunnel for testing the aircraft.

“My [top priority] is the TF-X program. It definitely has to be done,” Kotil said.

Burak Ege Bekdil was the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.

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