Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has eventually revealed what the entire aerospace world were anxiously waiting for: a full-scale mock-up of what would soon become the world’s best fighter jet.
The codenamed TF-X would be in the air by 2023, the centenary of the Republic. Officials now mention 2025 as a more realistic date which in Turkish defence industry jargon could mean “never” or “in the second half of the century.”
There is a thick cloud of political mist around the words “Turkey,” “fighter jet” and “Russian air defence architecture.” That is not understandable: at least we two NATO allies should be singing “Happy Together.”
- Did Turkey proudly announce that it would designs, develop and manufacture its own indigenous fighter jet, the TF-X? Yes. Did its allies object to the plan? No.
- Has President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not repeated, hundreds of times, that our TF-X would be in the skies by 2023? Perfect.
- Has Washington declared over and over again that Turkey would not only be expelled from the multinational F-35 program if it deploys the Russian S-400 system on its soil but could also face U.S.sanctions? Yes.
- In reply, did Turkey not say “we-couldn’t-care-the-least?” It did. Your choice, say the Americans. Our choice, say the Turks pondering where best to deploy the S-400s.
- What about the $10 billion Turkey’s local defence industry will lose by having been kicked out of the Joint Strike Fighter programme? We don’t care. We are so damn rich.
- What about firing power weakness due to the lack of the planed F-35s and the badly ageing fleet of F-16s? We’ll have our TF-X. It’s nice to know it will be a 100 percent Turkish aircraft. But let’s start with the engine. Who will power the TF-X? TEI? Perhaps in 2071.
- Mr Erdoğan has declared that without Turkish partnership the F-35 would never materialise. Could a president be serious about that? That the world’s largest ever single weapons programme would be sent to waste basket just because the Turks chose to be out.
The truth is, the Turks should be celebrating their expel from the F-35 program: 1- Turks can build a much better fighter, 2- At lower cost, 3- NATO’s fifth generation fighter programme will totally collapse – cost of ignoring Turkey’s soft power, 4- With a little bit of extra effort Turkey can fly its TF-X by 2021 instead of 2025. 5- Hundreds of F-35 orders from NATO allies will now go to TAI’s TF-X, making the company compatible with Lockheed Martin and aerospace industry’s ivy league.
What more could a re-emerging empire wish?