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TAI & BAE will ink TFX agreement, Pakistan may join as partner
November 20, 2018

TAI & BAE will ink TFX agreement, Pakistan may join as partner

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and BAE Systems will ink the TFX design and development agreement they signed in January at the International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF), which is taking place in Istanbul.

In January, TAI and BAE Systems agreed to a £100 million-plus contract that will involve BAE assisting TAI with the design and development of the TFX next-generation multi-role fighter.

The Turkish language news publisher Yeni Şafak reports that the aforementioned agreement will be inked during IDEF. Yeni Şafak added that Pakistan, which had been linked to the TFX program in 2016, may sign a “goodwill agreement” and be a partner in the TFX program. Additional details were not provided.

Notes & Comments:

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has not disclosed specific plans regarding its next-generation fighter plans. It did outline on numerous occasions that Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra will play a key role in bringing the program to fruition, particularly with the support of the educational facilities being raised in its vicinity as part of the Kamra Aviation City initiative. In March, the PAF’s Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sohail Aman said that PAC’s future lies in manufacturing 5th-generation fighters and active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radars. However, specifics regarding partners or suppliers for the PAF 5th-generation fighter were not provided.

Although the PAF has not commented on the TFX, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) had spoke of it on several occasions. In August, the MoDP Rana Tanveer Hussain told Pakistan’s state-owned television network PTV that Turkey requested Pakistan’s participation on the TFX. In November, the Secretary of the MoDP – Lt. Gen. (retired) Syed Muhammad Owais – told MSI Turkish Defence Review that the “details and scope of collaboration and participation is being worked between the two governments.” At Pakistan’s biennial defence exhibition IDEAS, TAI’s Senior Executive Vice President for Aircraft Ozcan Ertem told MSI that TAI was engaged with relevant Pakistani parties on the TFX.

In a recent interview of the MoDP at IDEF by Anadolu Agency, Mr. Hussain said that Pakistan may initially contribute with integration work at PAC, but efforts will be made to form business ties with Britain (note: the MoDP specifically named the Royal Air Force), from which point PAC will become a partner in the TFX.

The PAF’s current focus is on supplanting the remainder of its 190 legacy F-7P and Mirage III/5s with the JF-17 Thunder, its emerging backbone fighter. For the PAF, its next milestone program is the AESA radar-equipped JF-17 Block-III, which it views will be a significant addition to its fleet from 2019-2020. Besides the JF-17, the PAF leadership continues pointing towards the F-16 as a preferred off-the-shelf fighter for meeting near-term needs. The remainder, be it reports of interest in the Sukhoi Su-35 or other avenues, have been subject to secondary news reports and observer speculation.

The TFX topic is in a strange space in that while the PAF does not comment on it, the Pakistani MoDP and Turkish industry have been forthcoming about Pakistan’s engagement. Interestingly, the PAF CAS ACM Sohail Aman did tell PTV that talks for “procuring” fifth-generation fighters were underway with several countries (seemingly separate from the PAC fifth-generation fighter program). However, this does not necessarily mean that the PAF is interested in the TFX for its own fleet – PAC had manufactured parts of the TAI Anka UAV, even though Pakistan did not procure the drone.