Turkey to field new fighter by 2023, but slips utility helicopter choice

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The Turkish air force could introduce an indigenous twin-engined fighter around 2023, according to the nation's Undersecretary of Defence Industries (SSM) procurement agency.

Plans for the "Turkish type fighter" were unveiled in Ankara on 15 December, with local company Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) named as general co-ordinator for the programme.

The SSM has allocated $20 million for an initial two-year design phase to be conducted by TAI, with the company to also be responsible for sourcing engines from a foreign supplier.

Under the SSM's plans, the new fighter would be available for service around 2023 as a replacement for the air force's McDonnell Douglas F-4s (below) and Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 30s. It would operate alongside the service's planned future fleet of 100 conventional take-off and landing F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, plus its later-model F-16s.

 
© BernieC gallery on flightglobal.com/AirSpace

Defence minister Vecdi Gonul says Ankara is aware of South Korea's plans to field a new fighter through its own KF-X programme. "It is not clear at the moment, but we will make cooperation about the next-generation fighter," he says. Korea Aerospace Industries is still seeking international partners for its KF-X development, with Indonesia also having expressed interest.

If confirmed, the decision would represent bad news for other fighter manufacturers, such as the Eurofighter consortium, which has long viewed Turkey as a potential future buyer for its multirole Typhoon.

Meanwhile, the SSM has again slipped a selection decision in the Turkish armed forces' 109-aircraft general utility helicopter contest.

SSM sources say the price of the rival AgustaWestland AW149 and Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk bids were too high and that new negotiations will delay a decision until the agency's next procurement meeting in March 2011.