A model of the new generation T-FX fighter program will be presented at Le Bourget

Since coming to power, RT Erdogan has undertaken to restore to Turkey a status that it had lost during the First World War, by allying itself with Germany. In addition to the very significant increase in the army budget, which will have gone from $7 to nearly $20 billion in 15 years, he has also led a very important effort to make the Turkish defense industry a leading industry, capable to meet the needs of its forces, and to win export competitions.

Several programs characterize this effort, such as the Altay battle tank program in partnership with South Korea, the T-129 combat helicopter program with the Italian Agusta, and the MILGEM program for the design and manufacture of a modern surface fleet, of which the Ada corvettes are the first elements. At the same time, the country continued to participate in international programs, such as the F35, the NATO Patmar program, and the announcement of the integration of the Russian S500 program. In addition, the country recorded its first exports, with the order of Ada corvettes and T-129 helicopters from Pakistan, and Altay tanks from Qatar.

One program, however, concentrates all of the ambitions of the country and its president, the new generation T-FX combat aircraft program. Designed with the support of the British BAe, the T-FX is intended to replace the 250 F16s currently in service in the Turkish air forces, from 2027. It is part of the “F35-Like” type programs, like the South Korean and Japanese programs, of which it shares certain characteristics, in particular the twin-engine configuration, and the twin-derives V structure, also used by the F22, the F35 and the Su57, which has the particularity of being sensitive to low-frequency radars.

This program will be presented in model form during the Paris Air Show by the Turkish delegation which, as was the case during Euronaval and EuroSatory, does not intend to go unnoticed.

The fact remains that the future of this program is today in question, with the tensions between Ankara and Washington over the Russian S400, and American threats of a technological embargo. Indeed, if neither of the two protagonists agrees to backtrack, the consequences could force BAe to withdraw from the program, and with it, the engine manufacturer Rolls-Royces. Under these conditions, Turkish industry would find itself incapable of carrying out the program without the help of another industrialist who masters the design of combat aircraft and issues of stealth, and who can supply reliable engines to Ankara. And in the absence of Western support, Turkish industry will have, as its only option, to move closer to Russia, and its Su-57, or to China, and the J-20, or more probably the FC-31 Gyrfalcon.

The coming months will therefore see crucial decisions on the organization of future geopolitical but also technological blocs at the borders of Europe. To be continued …

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