DUBAI: TAI launches study on Turkish-built next generation fighter

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Turkey will decide in 15 months whether to launch a next generation fighter and trainer jet programme or partner with a development project in another country such as South Korea or Brazil, a top executive of Turkish Aerospace Industries told Flightglobal.

The Ministry of National Defence awarded a contract in August to TAI to launch an 18-month feasibility study on the so-called TFX programme, said Ali Yilmaz Guldogan, vice-president of strategic planning and industrial co-operation.

A 40-strong staff comprising representatives from the Turkish Air Force, TAI and the undersecretary of defence industries is now preparing to deliver the study in early 2013.

The goal of the study is to recommend a strategy for fielding a new fighter and trainer after 2023 for NATO's third-largest air force, Guldogan said.

That timetable for TFX means Turkey will start developing a new fighter at the same time as it spends billions to buy a new fleet of fighters over the next decade.

Turkey is currently signed up to buy 100 Lockheed Martin F-35s within the next nine years, but it has not yet signed an order.

Details of possible TFX concept designs have not been released. The feasibility study is still examining such basic requirements as to whether the new aircraft will be single-engine or twin-engine and whether it will have vertical or canted tails, among other major decisions, Guldogan said.

The study also is examining whether Turkey should lead development or collaborate with another partner, he added.

Last month, the Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) in South Korea suggested that Turkey will likely join its KF-X development project next year and assume a 20% stake in an estimated $5 billion development programme.

Meanwhile, Eurofighter officials at the Seoul Air Show released a long-term market forecast predicting that Brazil and Turkey could field a next generation fighter by 2025.