News Analysis |
Turkish Aerospace Industries has revealed a full-scale model of its indigenous 5th generation fighter jet TF-X in France at an air-show. The jet is planned to be inducted into operation by 2025 as announced by Turkey and a revelation of the model comes at a time when Turkey is being unfurled as a partner from the F-35 program.
Turkey is determined to make TF-X jet as the top choice among the jets offered by European aerospace industries. “This will be the best fighter in Europe, able to carry the Meteor missile — which is the best European missile — in the weapon bay,” CEO and President of Turkish Aerospace Industries, Temel Kotil said. “Hopefully this will be also a good fighter for NATO and the NATO allies.”
Turkey’s participation is indeed a good addition to the queue of countries producing 5th generation fighter jets as it will enable the buyers, which might include Pakistan in the coming years.
United States has gradually been hinting at scrapping Turkey off the F-35 Program after its decision to pursue the procurement of S-400 Anti-ballistic Missile Defense System. Washington had tried its best to keep its NATO ally from accessing Russian mil-tech hardware by offering its own missile defense system, PATRIOT-PAC3, at a discounted price yet Ankara still preferred S-400.
United States feared that Russia might be able to tweak its ABM system to detect stealth F-35, has threatened Turkey that failure to back away from getting S-400 could result in denial of F-35 fighter jets. In a display of the veracity of the threat, U.S Department of Defense has already called off the further intake of Turkish pilots to undergo the training for F-35 jets.
Similar yet different
Apparently, the outlook of TF-X is strikingly similar to that of the U.S made F-35 fighter jets, however, the former is more sleek and narrow in design compared to the latter. Though the model presented is to take years into effect and only then the salient features of the jets can thoroughly be compared to rest of the 5th generation fighter jets manufactured around the world, especially the F-35.
United States has gradually been hinting at scrapping Turkey off the F-35 Program after its decision to pursue the procurement of S-400 Anti-ballistic Missile Defense System.
However, as per the informational video released by Turkish Aeronautical Industries, the jet is able to carry the maximum takeoff weight of 60,000 pounds, can attain the top speed of Mach 2.0, double the speed of sound, and has a combat radius of 600 nautical miles. The contrasting feature of TF-X compared to F-35 is the considerably greater top speed which for F-35 is Mach 1.60.
Concerns over Turkey’s ability to produce 5th generation jet
Experts are skeptical over the potential of manufacturing a 5th generation fighter jet on its own. These concerns were addressed by President of Turkish Aerospace Industries saying, “On the F-35, actually, my company is building the center fuselage. So this means, in terms of manufacturing, Turkish Aerospace has enough strength to build this fighter. Our machine is a mock-up, but in 2023 there will be a real machine, and the first flight is in 2025, and [it will be in] service in 2028.”
While it is true that Turkey has been a crucial supplier of the parts of F-35 and the reason why shunning Turkey from the program will take time, but building 5th generation fighter jets come with challenges which are beyond the aptness for manufacturing. Such an extravagant program is only viable if the product has a demand across the world. It comes with an additional challenge of incorporating the changes which the buyers demand as per the topographical setting, where the machine is to be operated.
For instance, part of the reason why the F-35 program is way overdue is the different nature of demands which the US Air Force and Navy have put in before it can be procured from Lockheed Martin. Turkey’s participation is indeed a good addition to the queue of countries producing 5th generation fighter jets as it will enable the buyers, which might include Pakistan in the coming years, a broad range of choice best suited for their needs.