ANKARA, (BM) – At this stage, Ankara has no clear idea of which aircraft will build the Turkish fleet of next-generation fighters. That is why the Turkish government has decided to extend the existing F-16 Block 30 fighters’ service life.
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Ismail Demir, who is the head of the Turkish defense industry, said this in his tweet. Turkey is taking action to upgrade its fighters so that Ankara can upgrade the existing F-16 Block 30 out of 8,000 flight hours to 12,000 flight hours.
These new updates will include revisions and various renewal stages, replacement, or strengthening of the aircraft body. This action signals that Ankara will keep the F-16 as its main fighter in a standstill situation. Turkish analyst Kaglar Kurz says this will be the Balkan Air force’s state until Ankara acquires a next-generation fighter jet.
According to Kurz, Ankara could support its fighters’ firepower if the government decides to use autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles in various military operations and exercises. We know that Turkey has significantly increased its potential in this area in recent years, as it has become one of the leading countries for drone production.
TAI is currently building 30 new F-16 Block 50+ aircraft for the Turkish Air Force and is implementing an upgrade program covering more than 160 F-16 Block 30/40/50 aircraft.
The S-400 is the reason
The purchase of the S-400 air defense system in Ankara is the cause of Turkey’s air defense troubles. Turkey was a US partner in the F-35 program and received a significant number of such fighters. But after Ankara bought Russian air defense systems, Washington cut off Turkish participation in the program.
Turkish manufacturers are currently completing the production of parts for the F-35. This year is expecting to be the last in which Turkish manufacturers will make parts for this fighter.
The United States has suspended Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program because Ankara did not want to buy US Patriot air defense systems. Turkish authorities have argued for years that the Americans wanted too high a price for these systems. Ankara found a variant in the Russian S-400, but this infuriated Washington.
What is happening to the next generation Turkish fighter?
Years ago, Turkey took steps to build its next-generation fighter jet. TF-X is the name of the project.
However, Ankara is facing significant problems in this endeavor. It is not yet clear which company will drive the fighter. The Turks are negotiating with the British company Rolls Royce, but it is still unclear whether this will happen. Sources say the possibility is high, but a contract did not sign yet.
Turks will also have to address some issues with access to technology. Ankara has shown that it can upgrade and improve its existing weapons systems with local technology. The development of a next-generation fighter is an area in which Turkish engineers have not yet found their know-how, and they don’t have access to such solutions.
TF-X is a crawling project. The country is currently in a recession, no matter how much Turkish President Erdogan does not recognize it. The low value of the Turkish lira, high prices of necessities, and wages are at the same levels.
Aircraft carrier without aircraft
This situation is the next problem of the Turkish administration. Ankara is expecting to acquire its first light aircraft carrier, TGG Anadolu, in the coming years. Its production is going according to plan. Military experts even say that this year could be when tests begin and even enter service.
This situation will be a problem. An aircraft carrier without fighters is just a cargo ship. There are rumors that Ankara may turn to Russia to buy a Su-57, and this is also a problem. The Russians only started producing their fighters last year and are expected to prepare an export version within five years. I.e., It is not clear when Russia will have a naval version of this fighter at all.
Ankara can hope for mercy from Washington. The only solution at the moment is for US President Joe Biden to talk to Erdogan and persuade him to buy an F-15EX, especially after it became clear that Boeing had succeeded in trying to launch the plane from a short deck without a catapult.
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