Turkey’s Defence Industry Executive Committee (SSIK) has greenlighted an order for the second batch of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters for the Turkish Air Force.
As a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, Turkey committed to procuring up to 116 F-35s. In 2014, Ankara issued an order for 10 aircraft as low-rate initial production units. The Turkish Air Force is expected to receive the initial production units in 2018 (earlier from 2021 as originally planned).
In an interview with a Turkish news broadcast channel (A Haber), Turkey’s Minister of Defence Fikri Işık said that the second F-35 batch would comprise of 24 aircraft. The Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) stated that delivery of these aircraft would commence in 2021 or 2022.
Notes & Comments:
This order should help clear the uncertainties looming around Turkey’s participation in the F-35 in light of the failed coup in July (Flight Global). Although Ankara is seeking to develop a homegrown fighter solution in the form of the TFX, the F-35 was always envisaged as the replacement for the Turkish Air Force’s legacy F-4 Phantom II fighter-bomber aircraft.
Turkey formally joined the JSF program in 2002, pledging $175 million U.S. to the platform’s development. Ten Turkish defence industry vendors are involved in the F-35 program, with some, such as Kale Aerospace, being sole vendors for all F-35 users. Turkey will also manufacture the Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan under license (Lockheed Martin). Considerable investment has been made towards the F-35 in Turkey (with a potential of $12+ billion in activities), and with the F-35 the only fifth-generation fighter in production and available on the market available to Turkey, it was unlikely that Ankara would step back.
The TFX will be developed to replace the Turkish Air Force’s F-16s. The technological competencies and infrastructure developed to support the Turkish F-35 program will almost certainly be directed towards the TFX once the design phase is complete. Currently, Turkey is in the process of finalizing BAE’s support in the design phase. Ankara has also invited overseas parties, including Pakistan, to participate in the TFX.