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Monthly Defense News Recap – May 2023

Türkiye Flies Indigenous Helicopter with Indigenous Engine

On 22 April, Turkish Aerospace (TUSAŞ) successfully test-flew its T625 Gökbey general purpose helicopter with the indigenously developed Turkish Engine Industries (TEI) TS1400 turboshaft engine.

The head of Türkiye’s Defence Industry Agency (SSB), Ismail Demir, announced the achievement on social media, stating that it was “an important milestone in the Turkish defence industry.”

Indeed, this was the first time Türkiye flew both an indigenously developed helicopter powered by a locally designed and produced powerplant. In fact, the feat arguably places Türkiye among a handful of countries now capable of domestically sourcing the most important inputs of a modern rotary-wing aircraft.

The SSB started the TS1400 program in 2017. Its original goal was to wrap up initial development by 2019 and, in turn, test fly the engine in 2023. Development of the TS1400 is to conclude by 2024 or 2025, with the engine entering full-scale production by that point. From there, Türkiye envisions developing engines with higher thrust ratings so as to support its larger helicopter programs, like the T929 and T925.

The SSB is also aiming to rejuvenate the stalled T129 ATAK deal with Pakistan through the TS1400. Though signed in 2018, the sale of the 30 attack helicopters was derailed due to Washington’s reluctance to release export permits for the LHTEC CTS-800 turboshaft engines, which currently power the ATAK. These engines are bound by ITAR restrictions due to the use of various American-origin technologies…

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Türkiye Delivers First Indigenously Upgraded F-16s

On 18 May, Turkish Aerospace (TUSAŞ) delivered the first batch of upgraded F-16C/D Block-30 fighters to the Turkish Air Force. Though domestically upgrading F-16s is not new for Türkiye, indigenously designing and implementing the configuration – i.e., “Özgür” – is a significant milestone.

In effect, Türkiye now has its own analogous counterpart to the Lockheed Martin F-16V upgrade available for both F-16A/B and F-16C/D aircraft. Currently, the Turkish Air Force is aiming to upgrade 35 of its older F-16C/D Block-30s through the Özgür upgrade program.

The centerpiece of the Özgür configuration is the MURAD active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which is developed and produced by Aselsan, Türkiye’s leading defence electronics producer. In addition, the Özgür also has a domestically produced mission computer alongside an Aselsan-designed avionics and human-machine interface (HMI), which includes new colour multifunction displays (MFD)…

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U.S. President Greenlights F-16 Fighters to Ukraine

The Biden Administration is now approving the eventual transfer of F-16 multirole fighters to the Ukrainian Air Force. However, the aircraft will not be a factor in Ukraine’s forthcoming counter-offensive against the Russians, but rather, as a long-term solution for Ukraine’s air warfare needs.

In the meantime, the U.S. as well as other NATO allies have approved training programs for Ukrainian pilots so that they can acclimate to the F-16 and, potentially, other Western-origin fighters. For example, Sweden (which has applied for NATO membership) will also permit Ukrainian pilots to train on the JAS-39 Gripen, though there is no commitment at this time to transfer those fighters to Kyiv…

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