Turkey’s first domestic fighter jet will make its first flight with a domestic engine by 2029, while negotiations to recruit international partners are ongoing.
Turkey’s TF-X National Combat Aircraft (MMU) – a joint project of the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) – is preparing for its maiden flight with a domestic engine in 2029.
According to Osman Dur, Managing Director of TR Engine, a new research and development (R&D) center for turboshaft engines, work on developing the engine is proceeding at full speed, in cooperation with the institutions concerned.
He stated that around 80 engineers have been working on the national engine project for the domestic fighter jet, in cooperation with the Turkish Air Force Command.
“The engine tests should be completed by 2026 or 2027. The first flight of the MMU with a domestic engine will take place in 2029,” he noted.
The MMU is a fifth-generation jet with similar characteristics to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II. The domestically built aircraft is being developed to replace the Turkish Air Force Command’s F-16 fighter jets before they are phased out throughout the 2030s.
With the phasing out of F-16 fighters over the next decade, the importance of the domestic fighter jet “TF-X project” has increased.
A model of the national fighter aircraft was first presented at the Paris Air Show in June 2019 and then at the Istanbul Teknofest in September.
The project to develop national capacity for the manufacture of domestic fighter jet engines was initially launched by TAI, but was later taken over by TR Engine, a company created in 2017 by SSB to integrate various engine-related projects under one umbrella. About 55% of the company is owned by the Turkish defense contractor BMC, while TAI holds a 35% stake. SSTEK, a subsidiary of SSB, also holds a 10% share in TR Engine.
In a statement to the Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday, Osman Dur, Group’s managing director, stated that the company had been negotiating with international engineering and design companies, as well as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), as design and production were two separate operations. “There is no point in designing technologies that we can’t put into production. Therefore, we are continuing our best efforts to develop local suppliers for the domestic aerospace industry,” he said.
Human Resources in Aviation
Dur said that Turkey has a well-developed institutional structure in the aviation and aerospace industry and there wouldn’t be any problems in terms of human resources. “There are a few people with experience in critical technology sectors, but we have the experience and the links to attract more human resources from around the world,” he stated.
He added that the civil aviation sector in Turkey contributes to the defense industry in several technological areas, including computer science, software and artificial intelligence (AI), unlike in the past when the defense industry supported the development of civil sectors.
He stressed TR Engine’s role in uniting industry personnel with academics working in the field. The center also encourages university students to apply for jobs in the sector.
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