Turkey’s $50 billion jet programme raises questions
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Turkish ambitions to build a fighter aircraft and buy scores of new generation, multinational combat F-35 jets from a US supplier may go beyond Turkey’s financing capacity, says Burak Bekdil in the Hurriyet Daily News.
Turkish ambitions to build a “made-in-Turkey” fighter aircraft and buy scores of the new generation, multinational combat jet F-35 may go beyond Turkey’s financing capacity.
Defence industry officials estimate that building eight prototypes for what will become the Turkish national fighter would cost Ankara over $10 billion. “Any figure in the range of $11 billion to $13 billion would be realistic,” a senior official familiar with the programme said.
“We target $100 million per aircraft,” he said. “I think 200 is a realistic figure given our aging fleet of aircraft that will phase out in the decades ahead.”
That means Turkey will have to spend $31 billion to $33 billion for the Turkish fighter it hopes to design, develop and manufacture. But independent analysts say this may be an over-optimistic calculation.
100 more from the US
Turkey hopes that under its fighter jet programme, dubbed the TF-X, it can fly the Turkish fighter by 2023, the centennial of the republic. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to decide on whether to go ahead with the plan at a defence industry committee meeting later this year.
Meanwhile, Turkey, whose present fighter fleet is made up of US-made aircraft, also plans to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a next-generation, multinational programme also led by the United States.
Most of Turkey’s fleet of F-16 fighters, being modernised by Lockheed Martin, and the planned future F-35s are open to US technological influence. Only its older F-4 aircraft, modernised by Israel, and its oldest F-16s, being modernised by Turkey itself, are free from this influence. But these older aircraft are expected to be decommissioned around 2020.
Turkey’s defence procurement officials have said Ankara intends to buy around 100 F-35s. Defence analysts estimate the cost of the entire JSF program to Turkey to be around $16 billion, bringing Turkey’s fighter budget up to $50 billion together with the TF-X.