Turkey to build ‘national, original’ fighter aircraft
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey's top defense procurement committee decided late Wednesday that Ankara would develop and manufacture its next air-to-air fighter aircraft, either by itself or in cooperation with another country, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said.
Gönül told reporters after a meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee that the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Turkey's procurement agency, would start talks with Turkish Aerospace Industries, the country's main aerospace company, for a "conceptual design" of a fighter aircraft and a jet trainer to be built after the year 2020.
"This … effectively is a decision for the making of Turkey's first fighter aircraft," he said.
Committee members include Gönül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner and procurement chief Murad Bayar.
Gönül also said Turkey has rejected an offer by the Eurofighter consortium for the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters. "The Eurofighter is off Turkey's agenda," he said.
The minister said Turkey may cooperate with South Korea, but implied that this is a small possibility. "We can manufacture the new fighter aircraft with them, we don't rule this out. But the decision we have taken now calls for the production of a totally national and original aircraft," he said.
The Eurofighter consortium, the Italian government and Italian companies had recently stepped up efforts for joint development and sale to Turkey of up to 60 jets. Italian Deputy Defense Minister Guido Crosetti in October said Rome wanted to develop a fighter aircraft with Turkey.
Seeking equal partnership
Separately, Turkish and South Korean officials earlier have said that Turkey, South Korea and Indonesia jointly may develop the South Korean-led KF-X fighter aircraft.
But Turkey is now stepping back from this option. "What we need is a true and equal partnership for the development of a fighter. The problem is that South Korea is not likely to agree to an equal partnership," a senior Turkish procurement told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Turkey already has selected the U.S.-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II as one of its next-generation fighter aircraft types. It plans to buy about 100 F-35 aircraft worth nearly $15 billion. Many Turkish companies are members of the Joint Strike Fighter consortium of nine Western countries, and are producing parts for the aircraft. Turkey also will receive 30 modern F-16 Block 50 fighters from Lockheed Martin as a stopgap solution until F-35 deliveries begin around 2015.
Minister Gönül said Turkey's newly designed fighter aircraft "would be a next-generation type, would replace the [U.S.-made] F-4Es and would function well with the F-16 and the F-35." He therefore confirmed that the new aircraft mostly would be meant for air-to-air fighting.
Meanwhile, a much expected selection of the military's next utility helicopter type did not come at the Defense Industry Executive Committee meeting. AgustaWestland and Sikorsky Aircraft are vying for the joint manufacture of 109 helicopters, worth up to $4 billion.
"The offers … were insufficient," Gönül said. "Talks with both companies will continue, but we think that they should reduce their prices."