Amid frayed ties with NATO and the United States, Turkey, which seeks to pursue an independent policy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is exploring fifth-generation fighter jets developed in the country. As part of this initiative, Ankara plans to cooperate with its Azerbaijani and Pakistani allies.
“Our doors are open to cooperation in this direction. In particular, we are talking about cooperation with countries like Azerbaijan and Pakistan, and we propose to unite efforts in this direction, ”said the head of the Turkish Defense Industry Committee Ismail Demir in an interview with CNN Turk.
After being ousted from the United States’ F-35 Joint Strike Program for its acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system, Turkey has pushed its ambitious fifth-generation indigenous fighter jet, known as the TF-X National Combat Fighter.
The TF-X was designed to be an all-weather single-seat, twin-engine multirole fighter developed by the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) with BAE Systems providing technical assistance for the development of the combat aircraft.
TAI and BAE Systems signed a strategic £ 100million deal in January 2017 to collaborate on the stealth fighter project. Under this contract, BAE Systems will provide engineering consulting services and project-related support.
The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) of the Turkish Ministry of National Defense and TAI signed an agreement in August 2016 for the design and development of a local fighter jet.
In May 2020, the Turkish company HAVELSAN and TAI decided to collaborate for software development and integrated training for the TF-X National Combat Aircraft initiative. The stealth fuselage of this fifth generation fighter jet will be made of premium carbon composites.
The aerodynamic design of the aircraft will further enhance its high speed capabilities.
The aircraft is largely intended to meet the needs of air-to-air combat. However, due to its sleek design and distinctive features, the TF-X can also perform air-to-ground missions.
The aircraft is expected to provide a high level of situational awareness, sensor fusion techniques, low observability, and advanced weapon systems.
“We are and will continue to take some steps in this direction, as a country’s resources may not be sufficient to implement a project of this magnitude. Of course, each country has its own skills and capacities. It is very important to combine these capacities.
We have received positive signals in this regard, we have said that we are completely open to partnership. We will continue to develop measures in this direction with the countries from which we have received positive signals, and we believe that we must continue our efforts in this direction, ”said Demir.
Consider a partnership with Pakistan
Turkey has been pushing for Pakistan to participate in joint missile and warplane development, in the hope that a partnership with Pakistan will give Ankara access to Chinese military technology.
Turkish defense and government officials have held several talks with their Pakistani counterparts, with the last “high level” discussion taking place in January this year, over the co-manufacture of military hardware with Pakistan, Bloomberg reported. .
Turkey sees Pakistan as a key ally and potential partner for both the Siper missile and the TF-X fighter, according to officials familiar with the matter.
However, they did not disclose whether those talks received Beijing’s consent to share Chinese technology with Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Turkey’s collaboration with Pakistan for future defense projects as having “very serious potential”.
The “three brothers” pact
Recently, Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan have strengthened their military cooperation by conducting joint military exercises on September 12 in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
The exercise was known as “Three Brothers-2021” and was conducted with the aim of “further strengthening the existing ties between the three armies and helping them find new ways to fight terrorism in the region. “, according to an official statement.
Lt. Gen. Hikmat Mirzayev, Commander of Azerbaijani Special Forces, said at the inauguration ceremony that “cooperation between the three countries was at the highest level and important steps were being taken to further strengthen relations to ensure the security of the region and its inhabitants ”. .
Pakistan and Turkey provided military support to Azerbaijan for more than 44 days of the Second Karabakh War in September 2020, when Azerbaijan fought the Armenian armed forces.
“The regional trio is important in that it will add a military component to political ties,” Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish program at the Washington Institute, told Arab News.
“It is interesting to bring together Pakistan as a nuclear power, Turkey as one of NATO‘s largest and most powerful armies, and Azerbaijan as a rising regional military power largely thanks to Turkish and Israeli contributions to the defense industry, ”he added.