In a major show of force for Turkey’s domestic aerospace industry, the country’s largest aircraft manufacturer publicly unveiled a new fifth-generation-style stealth fighter in Ankara on 1 May.

The reveal of the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) National Combat Aircraft, commonly known as TF-X, came just weeks after TAI also revealed a new combat uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) and the same week the company flight tested two developmental aircraft: the T929 ATAK II attack helicopter and Hurjet supersonic trainer.

“His name is Kaan, let his sword be sharp,” TAI tweeted on 1 May, alongside a picture of the new TF-X fighter. Kaan is the Turkish language rendering of “khan” – the English equivalent of great khan or king of kings.

Notably, the twin-engined aircraft was developed and produced almost entirely at home, with the Turkish government claiming the aircraft is roughly 80% domestically sourced. The prototype version is powered by two GE Aerospace F110 engines, which are already assembled under license in Turkey to support the country’s fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s.

The Turkish air force operates 243 F-16C/Ds, Cirium data shows.

Development of the TF-X has been a plank of Turkey’s recent push to dramatically expand domestic production of high-end defence articles – a signature policy objective of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Today, we stand before our nation with a new phase of our projects,” Erdogan said at the unveiling ceremony at TAI headquarters.One by one, we are realising the dreams that our nation has been pursuing for centuries and that we have been pursuing since the foundation of our republic.”

Alongside his remarks, Erdogan tweeted a photo of himself sitting in the cockpit of the new jet. While the aircraft did not leave the ground, it did taxi down a runway in a show for the assembled crowd.

The aircraft now known as Kaan was originally intended to be an air superiority platform modelled after the Lockheed F-22 Raptor. The type was supposed to be paired with the 100 Lockheed F-35 fifth-generation strike fighters that Ankara planned to procure.

However, that plan changed when the USA removed Turkey from the multinational F-35 development programme in 2019, after Ankara purchased a Russian-made S-400 air defence system.

Strategically located NATO member Turkey now plans to make the National Combat Aircraft the backbone of its future air force fleet.

The country is also moving to dramatically expand its capacity for naval airpower. Less than a month before it revealed the TF-X, Ankara commissioned its first light aircraft carrier – the TCG Anadolu – on 10 April.

Originally meant to carry the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B variant, the ship will instead be centred on an air wing of domestically produced UAVs and conventionally piloted helicopters.

That air wing will include a number of aircraft from TAI competitor Baykar, including the Bayraktar TB-2 UAV currently fighting in Ukraine and the still-under-development Kizilelma uncrewed fighter jet.

While the TF-X reveal was the headline event, it was not the only significant milestone for Turkey’s aerospace industry in recent days. TAI in March revealed its new Anka-3 combat UAV, apparently meant to compete with Baykar’s Kizilelma.

Both types represent what the US Air Force (USAF) calls “collaborative combat aircraft” (CCA) – uncrewed vehicles designed to pair with and augment traditional piloted fighter jets.

Anka3 UCAV

Source: Turkish Aerospace Industries

Turkish Aerospace Industries has suggested its Anka-3 combat UAV could make first flight in the coming weeks

The USAF and American manufacturer Kratos are developing a CCA known as the XQ-58 Valkyrie, which the US Navy has also purchased as a test article. Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force are also partnering to develop a CCA the pair call the MQ-28 Ghost Bat.

TAI has suggested Anka-3 could make its first flight before the end of May.

The company successfully conducted flight flights of its new T929 ATAK II combat helicopter on 28 April and Hurjet trainer on 25 April.

“Hurjet completed its inaugural test flight, achieving an altitude of 14,000ft and a speed of 250kt (463km/h) during the test, while remaining airborne for 26 minutes,” TAI said following the test flight of the experimental trainer on 25 April.

The Hurjet represents the first military fighter to be designed and produced domestically in Turkey.

While the TF-X’s first flight remains unscheduled, TAI has previously given 2025 as a target. However, chief executive Temel Kotil suggested the prototype could lift off before the end of 2023 during a 9 January interview with the Turkish language affiliate of broadcaster CNN.

A statement from Kotil was not immediately made available by TAI following the 1 May ceremony. However, he retweeted a statement from Erdogan saying, “The future is in the skies because the nations that cannot protect their skies can never be sure of tomorrow”.

The often-controversial president has staked out 2023 as a critical year for his strategy of increasing Turkey’s domestic defence capability, describing the country as being on “the brink of a new era” after previously “being deprived” of industrial power.

“Today, we have airplanes, UAVs and helicopters making their first flight and starting their engines,” Erdogan says. “We must not leave any work we have started unfinished.”