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- Turkey unveiled a full-scale mock-up of its new indigenous fifth-generation fighter at the Paris Air Show on Monday.
- The fighter development program, a Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) project, was started to replace the Turkish Air Force’s aging F-16 fleet.
- The program has perhaps taken on new urgency as the US prepares to kick Turkey out of the F-35 program over Ankara’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems.
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Turkey unveiled a full-scale mock-up of a new indigenous stealth fighter concept on Monday at the 2019 Paris Air Show.
The unveiling of the new TF-X, which is expected to be Turkey’s first homegrown fifth-generation fighter, comes as the US prepares to kick its ally out of the F-35 program in response to the country’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
"Our machine is a mock-up, but in 2023 there will be a real machine, and first flight is in 2025, and [it will be in] service in 2028," Temel Kotil, the president and CEO of Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI), the company behind the model and new fighter concept, revealed at the event, Defense News reported.
The TF-X program was launched to replace the Turkish Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16s. The fighter was intended to be interoperable with other TurAF assets, including the F-35, TAI explains on its company website.
The mock-up TAI showed off at the Air Show is the twin-engine version, one of three different variations the company has explored in recent years, The War Zone reported, noting that the aircraft shares design similarities with the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35.
A promotional video highlighted some of the potential capabilities of the new TF-X. For example, the aircraft is said to be capable of flying at Mach 2 and have a combat radius of roughly 600 nautical miles. Kotil told reporters that it would be able to carry the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile in the internal weapons bay.
TAI is involved in the fuselage production for the F-35, which gives it the knowledge and skills necessary to develop a homegrown fifth-generation fighter, the company explained. "Hopefully, this will be also a good fighter for NATO and the NATO allies," Kotil said, according to Defense News.
This aerospace program may be taking on new urgency as the US takes steps to remove its NATO ally from the F-35 program, a direct response to Ankara’s unwavering decision to purchase the S-400 despite US objections.
"Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 will hinder your nation’s ability to enhance or maintain cooperation with the United States and within NATO," Patrick Shanahan, the acting Pentagon chief, recently wrote in a letter to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, CNN reported.
The US insists that the F-35 and S-400 are incompatible because the latter could be used to collect intelligence on the US fighter. The US has given Turkey until July 31 to reach an agreement.
If Turkey fails to do so, the US will block its ally from purchasing the F-35 and permanently halt the training of Turkish pilots on the advanced fighter. The training program has already been suspended.
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