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Hürjet: A Look at Turkey’s Next Generation Trainer Aircraft

On 22 July 2017, the Turkish Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) announced that the Turkish Air Force (TuAF) and Turkish Aerospace signed onto the development of the Hürjet, a next-generation trainer that TAI had been designing with internal resources as a potential replacement for the TuAF’s T-38 Talons.[1]

On 23 July 2019, i.e., two years after formally initiating the project, Turkish Aerospace announced that it finalized the ‘Preliminary Design Review’ (PDR) of the Hürjet. Turkish Aerospace intends to conclude the “critical design phase” of the Hürjet by the summer of 2020 and, in turn, complete the prototype by the end of 2021. Turkish Aerospace is expecting to conduct the Hürjet’s maiden test flight in 2022.

In its current design form, the Hürjet is a single-engine aircraft with the following specifications:

  • Wingspan: 9.8 m / 32.1 ft
  • Length: 13 m / 42.6 ft
  • Height: 4.2 m / 13.7 ft
  • Wing Area: 24m2 / 258.3 ft2
  • Engine Thrust: 19,200 lbf / 8,709 kgf (85 kN)

Based on these specifications, the Hürjet is similar to the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 and the in-development Saab/Boeing T-7A Red Hawk. With the Hürjet, Turkish Aerospace is aiming for comparable performance and capabilities as these two training platforms:

  • Service Ceiling: 45,000 ft
  • Maximum Speed: Mach 1.4
  • Range: 2,592 km
  • Rate of Climb: 35,000 ft-per-minute

It is unclear if Turkish Aerospace finalized the engine selection, but in June 2019, the company had signed a letter-of-intent with Eurojet. Thus, it appears that the Eurojet EJ200 is a leading candidate.[2] However, it appears that the company had originally planned to use the GE F404.[3]

The GE F404 would not have been as surprising given Turkey’s longstanding relationship with GE (which has engine manufacturing investments in the country). However, the chill in US-Turkish defence industrial ties following Turkey’s departure from the F-35 Lightning II might impact the situation.

Moreover, selecting the EJ200 over the F404 could possibly position the Hürjet as a non-ITAR (i.e., free of subsystem with US export controls) option. In fact, an EJ200-equipped Hürjet would be the sole ITAR-free trainer aircraft option of the direct class of the T-50 and T-7A.

Freedom from ITAR could be critical. In fact, the need to secure a third-party export permit for the CTS800-4A turboshaft engine had put a question mark on the sale of 30 T129 ATAK attack helicopters to Pakistan.

So, if Turkish Aerospace intends to promote the Hürjet, an engine that is not bound by ITAR would help it secure sales for the fighter, especially in ‘less conventional’ markets such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and certain countries, namely Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Pakistan.

This is particularly important if Turkish Aerospace positions the Hürjet as a lightweight multi-role combat aircraft. Turkey can already supply a potent munitions set – including precision-guided bombs, land-attack cruise missiles, anti-ship missiles, and in time, air-to-air missiles – and electronics.

With an engine free of direct US control, Turkey can potentially compete in a segment of the market that is only open to Chinese and Russian suppliers. In other words, Turkey can offer a relatively low-cost multi-role fighter alternative, albeit in the lightweight segment (competing with the JF-17, JAS-39C/D and L-15).

One example is Ukraine. Though Turkey is among Islamabad’s top suppliers today, in the long-term, it may extract more in the way large-scale contracts in Kiev. Ukraine is in the midst of a rearmament program for its military, and while its efforts centered on land vehicles, aviation will become a factor, eventually.

While the US or Western Europe might be reluctant to directly sell aircraft to Ukraine, Turkey could step in that role. And while that might put its budding ties with Russia under strain, it is unclear (following the purchase of the S-400) how far Istanbul is truly willing to take these relations.

Simply put, the scale of Turkey’s defence industry efforts show that it wants to become a major supplier, and with so many key markets largely tied to the US and Western Europe (e.g., the Arabian Gulf, East and Southeast Asia, etc), it would not make sense for Turkey to ignore strong, but underserved markets such as Pakistan, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Thus, the Hürjet would ‘complete’ Turkey’s catalogue in that it will have a fixed-wing, supersonic combat aircraft to offer (within a more manageable price-point than the TF-X fifth-generation fighter) along with its complete helicopter family, surface-to-air missiles, surface warships and submarines, and land systems.

Selecting the EJ200 could be a bridge towards the TF-X as well. In March 2019, Rolls-Royce had stepped back from its efforts to promote an engine for the TF-X.[4] However, Rolls-Royce maintained that its offer (which would involve a partnership with the private sector company Kale Group) “remains on the table.”[5]

Though it is unclear if the Rolls-Royce/Kale engine was to be an original design, or a variant of the EJ200, enabling the Eurojet Consortium (which also involves Rolls-Royce) to benefit from the Hürjet could be one play at securing a more favourable engine development and production deal for the TF-X.

Moreover, if it would be valuable to have a non-ITAR engine on the Hürjet, then the same feature would be essential for the TF-X. In fact, the head of the SSB, Dr. İsmail Demir, told CNN Turk that the SSB was in talks with multiple countries for collaboration on the TF-X, among them Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Malaysia.[6] For its fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), Pakistan requires an ITAR-free solution.

One of the main goals of the Hürjet program is to offer a competitively priced solution.[7] Fortunately, the Hürjet’s development is driven by a domestic need for up to 70 new advanced jet trainers (to replace the TuAF’s T-38s), so Turkish Aerospace will have a domestic launch user.[8]

However, for Turkish Aerospace to generate a profit while keeping the costs competitive, it will need more users (so as to distribute the research and development overhead). Offering a fighter variant will help, but it will need to tap into the 2,600+ aircraft market potential Saab and Boeing are forecasting for trainers.[9]

One of Turkish Aerospace’s target customers overseas is likely Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) does have an active lead-in-fighter-trainer (LIFT) requirement, at least as of November 2018.

Contrary to most expectations, the PAF apparently opted to not use the twin-seat JF-17B as a LIFT platform. Rather, the PAF will use 26 JF-17Bs for operation conversion training to the platform, but it will separately procure a LIFT to essentially take on the fighter conversion role. The current PAF leadership is viewing the induction of a new LIFT as essential (and it aims to induct one before its FGFA).

At IDEAS 2018, the PAF told Quwa that it wanted a LIFT with an afterburning engine. However, in a May 2019 interview with Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) said that an afterburning engine was not essential, but it would need “an air interdiction radar and a datalink training system.”[10]

The easier requirements enabled the Chinese L-15, Italian M-346 and Czech L-159 to compete for the bid. However, an ITAR-free Hürjet would provide the PAF with an option for its original request, which would have limited to only GE F404 (i.e., ITAR-bound) T-50 and T-7A.

Though it will come at a later date, the Hürjet could still factor in before any FGFA in the PAF (which would, at best, come online in the 2030s). Thus, the PAF could simply wait until it is able to evaluate the Hürjet. It could also provide inputs to Turkey on what it would prefer (during the trainer’s development) so as to ensure it receives a specially tuned package for its requirements.

However, a risk with opting for the Hürjet is that it could overlap with the JF-17. The Hürjet is powered by the same class of engine as the JF-17, though it is a physically smaller fighter than the Thunder.

Based on the above specifications, the two platforms appear close in size and capability. Interestingly, it appears that the JF-17 offers a heavier payload capacity, which might increase further in the Block 3. Thus, the Hürjet could compare well against the early JF-17 Block 1 and Block 2 variants, but the JF-17B, Block 3, and potentially later blocks could be more capable, and possibly costlier.

Alternatively, the Hürjet and JF-17 (including future variants) could be comparable in cost, but for the PAF, cost might only be one factor. The Hürjet could offer a training-first mindset with an emphasis on ease-of-use suitable for pilots whose experience to that point was limited to subsonic aircraft.

Finally, the PAF might also want a dissimilar air combat training (DACT) platform for Combat Commanders School (CCS). In this respect, it could configure the Hürjet as a light-to-medium-weight fighter with US or Western European subsystems to simulate the Tejas, Mirage 2000, and India’s future multi-role fighter.

In this sense, the closer the Hürjet is as a fighter platform, the more accurate of a representation it will provide in DACT. Thus, in this sense at least, the added cost and potential overlap with the JF-17 are both justifiable, which may explain why the PAF has opted to look for a LIFT instead of using the JF-17B.

[1] “HÜRJET Comes to Light in England.” MSI Turkish Defence Review. 18 September 2018. URL:

[2] “Typhoon Engine to Hürjet.” C4Defence, 20 June 2019. URL:

[3] “Critical development at Hürjet! He will take off on that date.” Yeni Akit. 08 July 2019. URL:

[4] Meklha Raina. “Rolls-Royce scales back on joining fighter jet project with Turkey’s Kale Group.” Reuters. 03 March 2019. URL:

[5] Ibid.

[6] Interview with Prof. Dr. Ismail Demir. CNN Turk. 16 November 2019. URL:

[7] Greg Waldron. “Farnborough: Turkish Aerospace eyes powerplants for Hurjet, TF-X.” Flight Global. 18 July 2018. URL:

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Report says Boeing/Saab T-X trainer would make an ideal light fighter.” Combat Aircraft. 09 September 2019. URL:

[10] Alan Warnes. Interview. Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 22 May 2019.

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