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Turkey Makes Inroads in Aero Engine Development

On 19 June 2020, Turkey’s Tusaş Engine Industries (TEI) announced that it successfully tested its domestic TJ300 miniature turbojet engine at Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) facilities. TEI also tested the “core” of its TS1400 turboshaft engine, and is aiming to deliver the prototype to TAI in 2020.[1]

Turkey intends to power its anti-ship cruising missiles (ASCM) and land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) with homegrown engines. It currently imports miniature air-breathing engines from Microturbo to power its domestically developed cruise missiles. The TJ300 reportedly offers a thrust rating of 1.3 kN, which would not be enough for its larger ASCM/LACM designs, such as the Atmaca and SOM.[2] Rather, TEI will steer the TJ300 for a shorter-range application – TEI labels the TJ300 as the “Medium Range Anti-Ship Missile.”

Turkey also developing a larger miniature turbojet engine called the KTJ-3200. It will use the KTJ-3200 to power the Atmaca ASCM and SOM LACM/ASCM. Interestingly, the Turkish private sector – led by Kale – is driving the development of the KTJ-3200.[3] The KTJ-3200 will offer a thrust of 3.2 kN.[4]

The TS1400 is intended for the TAI T625 Gökbey utility and transport helicopter, which flew for the first time in September 2018, but with the CTS-800A turboshaft engine supplied by the joint-Honeywell and Rolls-Royce venture Light Helicopter Turbine Engine Company (LHTEC). The TS1400 will offer an output of 1,400 shp, potentially making it comparable to the engine Turkey is seeking to replace.[5]

Ankara has been working to end its reliance on overseas suppliers – especially Europe – for critical inputs, especially engines. In recent years, Ankara found that the governments of its critical suppliers leveraged Turkey’s reliance on those inputs to hamper its defence export sales and overseas military activities.

For example, the United States’ reluctance to release permits for the re-sale of the CTS-800A froze TAI’s contract to supply 30 T129 ATAK attack helicopters to the Pakistan Army. Likewise, Ankara must regularly contend with cabinet and parliament-level discussions about sanctioning Turkey each time the latter tries exerting its security interests, especially with regards to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Though TEI has made significant developmental in-roads with its aero engines, it is still at least some years away from integrating, testing, certifying, manufacturing, and supplying them at-scale. But the recent test runs are markers of progress, which is significant considering these are Turkey’s first attempts to designing and producing its own engines. To-date, Turkey has manufactured such engines under license.

Currently, TEI intends to complete the TS1400 program by 2024 to 2025. In 2017, Turkey’s Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) commissioned TEI to develop the TS1400 under a multi-phase program. With at least a starting cadre of 250 engineers, TEI was to develop the TS1400’s air-breathing core in two years, build the prototype in four-and-a-half years, and complete certification in one-and-a-half years.[6]

The starting application of the TS1400 will be the TAI T625, Turkey’s first homegrown utility and transport helicopter. Comparable in specifications and role to the Leonardo AW139, TAI intends to market the T625 for both civilian and military roles. However, to push ahead with military applications, TAI will likely need to wait for the TS1400. Thus, the T625 will kick-off in earnest after 2025 and, by 2030, could emerge in a number of variants, including a tandem-seat, dedicated attack helicopter, the T629.

In June 2020, photos leaked of a new – and original – tandem-seat attack helicopter design. It seems that this mock-up is that of the forthcoming T629, which is slated to fly by the end of 2020. However, the T629 prototype is unlikely to fly with the TS1400, TAI will test the TS1400 through the T625 initially. Once ready, TAI will also look to integrate the TS1400 to the T129 ATAK.[7] Turkey is also looking to develop turboshaft engines in the class of the General Electric T700 to support TAI’s 10-ton helicopter programs.

The Starting Point to Turkey’s Development Success

Between the time it started manufacturing air-breathing engines under license to now manufacturing the prototype of its first indigenous turboshaft engine, Turkey took many steps. These steps include funding for research and development (R&D), talent and capacity development – and retention – and many other specific policies. However, while these policies were successful because of the competency or quality of the execution, the actual cause is broader in its scope, and less tangible.

In observing Turkey’s defence industry, one can see that its central planners (i.e., the SSB) valued several key attributes, and implemented them across each institution, state-owned-enterprise (SOE) or program.

These attributes were:

1. Staffing leadership positions of technology organizations (SOE) with industry experts, but with an emphasis on engineers and scientists with experience in managing the SOE’s work.

For example, the General Manager of Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik (STM), Murat Ikinci, is both a software expert by trade, and a career veteran of STM. In other words, not only did Turkey delegate an industry expert to lead STM, but it chose someone from within the organization – i.e., establishing hope among experts in SOEs that they can vertically climb to leadership positions.

However, Turkey also supports horizontal movement. TAI’s General Manager, Temel Kotil, led the country’s flagship carrier, Turkish Airlines (which is now mostly privately owned, i.e., at 51%). An engineer by trade, Kotil had originally set-up a number of aerospace R&D initiatives at the Istanbul Technical University. Kotil moved horizontally across several public organizations.

It should be noted that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) still have a hand in these SOEs (much like the Pakistani military does with its defence production entities). However, the TSK and the Turkish government delegated the day-to-day running of STM, TAI, etc to professional engineers who had contributed/excelled in their careers in those organizations.

2. Liberally supporting – if not relying on – the Turkish private sector to supply inputs for indigenous defence products, and even complete solutions. One flagship initiative is the Bayraktar series of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which were designed and manufactured by Baykar Makina.

However, opening armed forces tenders to the Turkish private sector is just one side of support to the private sector. In addition, Turkey also ties its big-ticket procurement to offsets (i.e., having a winning foreign contractor reinvest a sizable percentage of the contract value to Turkey). But it opens the benefits of those offsets to the private sector.

The flagship program of this model was the F-35. Before the U.S. ejected Turkey from the F-35, a number of privately owned Turkish companies were linked to the fighter’s supply channel. These included Alp Aviation, Kale Aerospace, and Ayesaş.[8] Though the F-35 is not a factor for the Turkish Air Force, one should expect TAI to award comparable contracts to the private sector through its homegrown next-generation fighter program, the TF-X/MMU.

3. Taking defence as both an issue of foreign policy/national security and economics, with the latter consideration driving domestic R&D and support to the Turkish private sector.

This is less tangible because it delves into ambition and national interest. However, based on the developments thus far, Turkey is taking these elements seriously. Ankara experienced the limits of relying on foreign suppliers, especially when it deploys weapons of foreign make in operations.

Instead of seeking an alternative supplier, it opted to eliminate the risk of end-user limitations or sanctions through indigenous development. Yes, it does run into frequent roadblocks with its own projects, such as foreign engineering/R&D entities refusing to share intellectual property (IP) and transfer technology. However, instead of stopping at those roadblocks, Turkey has opted to invest in boosting its domestic R&D base so as to emulate that IP independently.

Its trust in the private sector also shows an institutional understanding of the cost of maintaining SOEs. Though Turkey’s SOEs may offer successful examples, and a standard of how one ought to operate such entities, Ankara is not taking it for granted. By committing to ordering locally in TSK tenders, Ankara has encouraged private sector investors to build and maintain capacity. This is an overhead that neither the TSK or Turkish government need to directly worry about and, instead, can put more resources towards procurement (instead of payrolls or facility management).

But in short, the above examples are all outcomes. For those observing Pakistan’s struggles with its defence industry, the “why” of Turkey’s decisions are still elusive. One could understand a lack of comparable Pakistani policies amid a lack of options or willing partners. In fact, the Turks’ SOEs had started in part due to co-production partnerships and offsets.

However, Turkey – as well as South Africa and Ukraine – had invited Pakistan to start through co-production and joint R&D, yet Pakistan’s response has largely been cold. Pakistan even (on paper) has an offset policy, yet it never implemented it on a big-ticket program.

In any case, with Pakistan’s tenuous economic situation and, in turn, the large proportion defence spending commands from the federal budget, scrutiny into these decisions (or lack thereof) may emerge in the coming years (both outside and within the armed forces). If not, current decision-making habits will result in the armed forces acquiring less (in quantity and quality), but for more in terms of cost (e.g., due to a perpetually eroding PKR value, among other factors).


[1] “Turkey tests its 1st locally made medium-range missile engine.” Daily Sabah. 19 June 2020. URL:

[2] Busra Nur Yilmaz. “Turkey tests its first medium-range missile engine.” 19 June 2020. URL:

[3] “Another successful test from the domestic Turbojet engine.” Haber 7. 08 May 2020. URL:

[4] İbrahim Sünnetci. “Qualification Tests of KTJ-3200 Engine Still Ongoing.” Volume 18. Issue 98. URL:

[5] “Original Power System TS1400 Turboshaft Engine Developed by TEI’s Seasoned Team of Experts for the T625 Helicopter.” Defence Turkey. Volume 13. Issue 92. URL:

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Press Release. “Turkey Received Delivery Of Its First F-35 Aircraft.” Lockheed Martin. 30 June 2018. URL:

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