The Turkish fighter development (TF-X) programme took a vital step forward at IDEF on May 10. In a ceremony at the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) stand, Stephen Phipson, Head of the UK’s Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) and Professor Dr Ismail Demir, Turkey’s Undersecretary for Defence industries signed an agreement that will pave the way for future co-operation on the project.
It means that Phase 1 Stage 1 preliminary design agreement between the Turkish Government and prime contractor TAI, signed on August 5, 2016, has been bolstered by the UK’s commitment to sharing technologies and expertise in support of TF-X.
On January 28, 2017, the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May and the Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim announced a defence industry collaboration between their two countries. It saw BAE Systems and TAI signed a ‘Heads of Agreement’ on the same day to establish a partnership for the development of the ambitious TF-X. Worth more than £100 million, this first contract has the potential to facilitate multi-billion pound contracts between British and Turkish firms over the life-time of the project, strengthening links between the UK and Turkey. The TF-X is expected to make its first flight in 2023, to celebrate Turkey’s 100th anniversary and enter Turkish Air Force service in 2029.
BAE Systems Managing Director Military Air and Information Chris Boardman is confident that the deadlines can be met based on previous experience on the likes of Mantis. “In simple terms, BAE will provide expertise across all the parts of the programme that are required to be put together. We are not workshare driven. BAE is known to design and deliver combat aircraft - that’s one of our specialist skills. We will operate in the areas they wish us to work but the first thing to understand, is what their [TAI’s] work programme is going forward, then formalize it and adapt to the work required to make the programme successful. There will be a trade-off between what you need to do to bring the content and what you need to develop production wise to actually meet the operational needs of the air forces operating the aircraft.” Rolls Royce and Eurojet are expected to compete for the engine contract and then there is the need for a flight control system. These are the most important decisions and they have to be made by the end of the year if the 2023 deadline is to be met,” Boardman finishes.