On Washington’s move to expel Ankara from the F-35 fighter jet programme, Kotil stated the project was not on TAI’s agenda and that Turkey’s TF-X National Combat Aircraft (MMU) was now more important than ever before.
“It must be completed,” he said while adding that the project requirement for new engineer recruitment has led to them inviting young engineers interested in the defence industry to work with them.
“We currently have 4,000 engineers at TAI. We need to increase the number of engineers to 10,000,” Kotil said, while stating that the company needs 6,000 more just for the TF-X project.
The TAI TF-X Turkish fighter jets are set to combine the best of a stealth air-superiority fighter with additional ground attack capabilities and an impressive array of sensors, cutting-edge radar, networked drone control and hypersonic missile capacity.
Although many would think that this attempt came after Ankara’s exclusion from the F-35 programme, Turkey started developing its first fifth-generation fighters even before its role in the F-35 programme had ended.
The fighter jet will feature two engines, a single pilot, and stealth features such as internal weapons bays – a single pilot gives engineers much more room to pack an increasing amount of technology into the plane. This is only possible with heavy automation that lets the pilot focus on the mission target, instead of running the fighter jet.
Double the engines mean a faster speed, ensuring that energy-intensive manoeuvres don’t bleed too much of the plane’s velocity which could otherwise leave it vulnerable or outperformed by a faster opponent.
When speaking of stealth, externally-mounted weapons increase the aircraft’s visibility on the radars. The TF-X will also include stealth features such as an advanced carbon-composite body that aims to be radar reflective.
Performance-wise, the TF-X is planned to have a maximum speed of twice the speed of sound, and an operational range of nearly 1,111 km until it runs out of fuel, exceeding the US F-35 stealth fighter in terms of speed, maximum operational height, and matching it in terms of operational range.
The fighter jet is 21 metres long, with a large 14 metre wingspan. It will reportedly use an advanced glass cockpit with a voice-command interface and data-links so that it controls up to two friendly drones, which may be developed to fire air-to-ground or air-to-air missiles.
This particular feature of TF-X could allow it to stalk targets at a distant range without being spotted, sending drones to fire weapons without exposing itself to fire.
Aside from the standard repertoire of missiles the fighter jet will be able to carry, Aselsan is set to produce the sensors and avionics of the fighter jet. Aselsan is also currently developing an AESA radar, (Active Electronically Scanned Arrays), which would allow the plane to focus radar in different directions without moving a thing.
Thanks to its own fifth-generation fighter, Turkey would stand to profit by selling it to other countries, while enjoying increased national security with a supply chain that can’t be threatened by sanctions.
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