21st September 2021

TAI TF-X user+1@localho Tue, 09/21/2021 - 21:17

TF-X is a prospective fifth-generation fighter under development for the Turkish air force. The program is led by state-owned Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) with the cooperation of BAE Systems. In Turkish, the program is known as the Milli Muharip U ak (MMU) the National Combat Aircraft. Turkish sources also infrequently refer to the program as F-X, but this document will exclusively use TF-X to avoid confusion with other F-X programs such as F/A-XX, KF-X and Japan s F-X.


Program History

Turkey s Role in the F-35 Program

On Dec. 12, 2006, Turkey selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II as its New Generation Fighter Jet. It signed a letter of intent with Lockheed Martin to become a partner on the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program on Feb. 6, 2007, planning to acquire as many as 116 F-35As by 2031 (it later reduced this target to 100). These would replace its aging McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom IIs, F-4E 2020s and F-16C/D Block 30s and Block 40s. Newer F-16C/D Block 50s would remain in service into the 2030s.


Turkish industry played a significant role in the program. The country was designated a Level-III partner, representing the lowest tier of partner nations directly involved in the F-35 s system development and demonstration (SDD) phase. In terms of manufacturing workshare, Turkish involvement was more substantive. TAI delivered center fuselages to F-35 final assembly and checkout (FACO) facilities in Cameri, Italy and Fort Worth, Texas. It also produced composite skins, weapon bay doors and fiber placement composite air inlet ducts for the program. Other Turkish F-35 suppliers include Alp Aviation, which manufactured structural components, landing gear components and engine parts (including titanium integrated blade rotors); Ayesas, which made the missile remote interface units and the panoramic cockpit display; Fokker Elmo, which made 40% of the electrical wiring and interconnection system for the F-35 and the F135; Havelsan, which worked on the training system; and Kale Group, which worked with TAI on aerostructures, with Heroux Devtek for landing gear lock up assemblies and with Pratt & Whitney on F135 components.


Turkey also envisaged the inclusion of indigenous weapons on its F-35As from the start. This was to include:

  • The Precision Guidance Kit (HGK)
  • The G KDO AN (Peregrine) beyond visual range (BVR) AAM
  • The BOZDO AN (Merlin) short-range air-to-air missile (AAM)
  • The SOM family of air-launched cruise missiles.


When Turkey planned to acquire the Russian S-400 surface to air missile system, the U.S. raised concerns about the impact this would have on the F-35. Under the Fiscal 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act as signed into law in February 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) was prohibited from using funds to transfer F-35As to Turkey if the S-400 acquisition continued. Turkey consistently expressed its intent to move ahead with the S-400 acquisition anyway. On April 1, 2019, the U.S. suspended F-35A deliveries to Turkey. Deliveries of the S-400 began in July 2019.


Shortly thereafter, on July 17, 2019, Turkey was officially ejected from the JSF program. Its removal presented immediate and serious transitional issues for the program, which would need to substitute Turkish components used in the fighter. By this time four Turkish F-35As had already been produced. Though Turkey owned the planes, the U.S. has prevented them from leaving the country. At the time the U.S. Department of Defense estimated that 900 Turkish parts would have to be substituted and that the expulsion would result in losses totaling $9 billion to Turkish industry over the life of the program. Notably this total includes 188 parts produced for a Kale Group joint venture with Pratt &Whitney for the P&W F135 turbofan engine aboard the F-35.


Following Turkey s ejection from the JSF program, Russia s Rostec publicly offered the Su-35 as a replacement. On Oct. 15, 2019, President Erdogan indicated that Turkey had also received an offer for the Su-57. The Director of Russia s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Dimitry Shugayev later indicated that the Su-57 was not on offer and was reserved for Russia s air force.


The TF-X program was initiated on Dec. 15, 2010 to provide an indigenous replacement for Turkey s fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s, which are expected to begin leaving service in the 2030s. It also began with a view towards the development of Turkey s aerospace industry, which has extensive experience manufacturing unmanned aerial vehicles and upgrading or remanufacturing combat aircraft, but which has never designed a fighter.


On Aug. 23, 2011, a contract was signed between TAI and the Savunma Sanayii M ste arl (SSM) Undersecretariat for Defense Industries to initiate concept design for the new fighter. The concept studies were completed by Sep. 29, 2013. Three planforms were apparently evaluated and were first displayed publicly at the 2013 International Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul. Of the three, two were single engine concepts, one with a conventional arrangement (FX-5) and the other with a large V-tail and close-coupled control canards (FX-6). In this design the V-tail surfaces contribute to pitch, roll and yaw; combined with the canards they yield a highly agile fighter. A 2018 estimate indicated that the FX-5 and FX-6 designs would feature an MTOW between 50,000 lb. (22,680 kg) and 60,000 lb. (27,215 kg). This would make either configuration lighter than the F-35A by over 10,000 lb. (4,535 kg).


The third and final design (FX-1) is a twin-engine layout with a planform resembling that of the F-22 and a conventional tail. It appears to be most optimally designed for supercruise capability and to maximize range. This design would have an MTOW between 60,000 lb. (27,215 kg) and 70,000 lb. (31,750 kg), significantly lighter than the F-22. All three feature caret inlets and standard low-observable features such as chined noses, edge alignment and sawtooth interfaces between the fuselage, access panels and the radome.