TAI TF-X

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TAI TF-X
Maquette TF-X Le Bourget 2019.jpg
Mock-up at Paris Air Show 2019
Role Stealth air superiority fighter[1]
National origin Turkey
Manufacturer Turkish Aerospace Industries
Designer Turkish Aerospace Industries in collaboration with BAE Systems
Introduction 2029 (IOC planned)[2]
Status Preliminary design studies[3]
Program cost US$50 billion (expected)[4]
Unit cost
US$100 million (expected)[5]

The TF-X (Turkish Fighter – Experimental) is a proposed twin-engine[6] all-weather air superiority fighter[7] being developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in collaboration with BAE Systems.[8][9] The aircraft is planned to replace F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Turkish Air Force and to be exported to foreign air forces.[10] The Turkish Ministry of National Defense said the TF-X would make its first flight by 2023,[11] but this was later delayed to 2025.[12]

Development[edit]

On December 15, 2010, Turkey's Defense Industry Executive Committee (SSIK) decided to design, develop and manufacture a national next generation air-superiority fighter which would replace Turkey's F-16 fleet and operate with other critical assets like F-35 Lightning II.[13]

In 2011, Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), the procurement agency for Turkish Armed Forces, signed an agreement with the TAI for the conceptual development of basic capabilities. TAI and TUSAŞ Engine Industries (TEI) would lead the design, entry and development processes of the fighter jet. The studies would reveal the cost of the fighter, while investigating which mechanical and electronic systems would be employed and included, and a wider perspective of the opportunities and challenges in military aviation.[14] Funding equivalent to US$20 million was allocated for a 2-year conceptual design phase performed by the Turkish Aerospace Industries.[15] TAI officials have stated that conceptual design phase should be complete in late 2013, with a report being prepared and submitted to the Prime Minister for the approval of development phase budget and framework. The Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) had written a letter of intent to three engine manufacturers: General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Eurojet Turbo. Turkey plans to introduce the TF-X by 2025, having it and the F-35A comprising a dual fighter jet fleet. The TF-X is to compensate for some of the F-35's drawbacks in a close air combat. Development Phase I was expected to officially commence by the end of 2014.[16] In 2015, the TAI released three potential airframe configurations:

  • Single engine configuration
  • High agility single engine canard-delta configuration
  • Twin engine configuration

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced on January 8, 2015, that the TF-X will be a twin-engined fighter.[6] The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries published its 2016 Performance Report in March 2017, where it was revealed that the final decision was to continue with the twin engine FX-1 configuration.[17] In December 2017, TAI released preliminary technical specifications and features of the aircraft.[18] Some features of a 5th generation fighter projected for the TF-X are:

  • Sensor fusion
  • Improved situational awareness
  • Reduced detectability
  • Internal weapon bays
  • High maneuverability

Jane's has described the project as "extremely ambitious."[12]

Bid[edit]

On March 13, 2015, the Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) officially issued a Request for Information to Turkish companies which had the capability "to perform a genuine design, development and production activities of the first Turkish fighter aircraft to meet Turkish Armed Forces’ next generation fighter requirements" signalling the official start of the program.[19] The contract for design and development of the fighter was signed between the SSM of Ministry of Turkish National Defense and Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. on August 5, 2016. The SSM granted $1.18 bn. to Turkish Aerospace Industries to acquire necessary technologies and infrastructure for the design, testing and certification of the aircraft.[20]

BAE Systems[edit]

In December 2015, Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) announced that it had chosen BAE Systems of the United Kingdom to assist with the design of the nation's next-generation air superiority fighter. The same day UK's Rolls-Royce offered EJ200 engine technology transfer and joint-development of a derivative for the TF-X program.[21] During the visit of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May to Turkey in January 2017, BAE Systems and TAI officials signed an agreement, worth about £100 million, for BAE Systems to provide engineering assistance in developing the aircraft.[22] Following the agreement, the UK issued open general export licence to defense companies willing to export goods, software or technology to Turkey.[23]

Engine[edit]

On January 20, 2015, Aselsan of Turkey announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Eurojet, the manufacturer of the EJ200 engine used in the Eurofighter Typhoon.[24] The announcement also stated that a derivative of the EJ200 will be used in the TF-X program.[25][26][27][28] The two companies will additionally collaborate and co-develop engine control software systems and engine maintenance monitoring systems.[28] Turkey's selection of the EJ200 evidenced TAI's intention to use supercruise capability. In May 2017, Rolls-Royce established a joint venture with the Kale Group of Turkey to develop and manufacture engines for the project.[29] Another competitor is TRMotor Power Systems Inc. established in April 2017 by BMC, TAI and SSTEK. On November 8, 2018, the TRMotor signed a heads of agreement with the SSM to develop a jet engine for the TF-X project[30] While General Electric didn't openly express interest in the TF-X project, its local partner TUSAS Engine Industries (TEI) announced that it will participate in engine development phase. On June 11, 2018, TEI General Manager Mahmut Faruk Akşit said that they proposed a mature engine for which they had completed commercial proposal for the infrastructure of sub-component tests for compressor. He emphasized the advantage of GE engine over its competitors stating that they have significant OEM support whereas the collaboration between other companies were yet to thrive. The TEI committed to submit all intellectual rights to the government.[31] In October 2018, local media reported that unknown number of initial production fighters will be equipped with General Electric F110 engines until the TRMotor finalizes the national engine.[32] On March 4, 2019, Rolls-Royce withdrew from the joint venture due to disputes over sharing of intellectual property and TRMotor involving a Qatari stakeholder.[33]

Rostec of Russia[edit]

Russian defense company Rostec at the Eurasia Air Show 2018 evinced an intention to join the TF-X program[34][35]. In a surprise move, some Russian companies (United Engine Corporation) have also stated that they were ready to provide technology for the TF-X engine[36]. Turkish defense officials confirmed that they are exploring this option and discussing potential cooperation models. Turkish President Erdoğan, accompanied by Russian President Putin, were showcased the fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet at the MAKS 2019 international airshow in the Moscow region on 27 August 2019.[37]

Design[edit]

Airframe[edit]

Hüseyin Yağcı, TAI's chief engineer on the TF-X program, has stated that all three conceptual designs thus far feature a design optimized for low radar cross-sectional density, internal weapons bays, and the ability to supercruise; features associated with fifth-generation fighter jets.[7]

Mockup, rear view

TAI's Advanced Carbon Composites fuselage facility, which was commissioned to produce fuselages for Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter (F-35)[38][39] program, has been tasked with developing an Advanced Carbon Composite fuselage for the TF-X. The Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) has also issued a tender for the development of a new lighter carbon composite thermoplastic for the TF-X fuselage.[40]

Radar and sensors[edit]

ASELSAN is currently developing an advanced Active electronically scanned array radar which will use gallium nitride (GaN) technology for the TF-X program.[41]

Avionics and equipment[edit]

The TF-X will be integrated from the cockpit to accompanying UAV's (most likely the TAI Anka) through encrypted datalink connections.[42] The aircraft will likely use upgraded variants of Aselsan's own radar warning receiver (RWR), missile warning system (MWS), laser warning system (LWS), chaff and flare management, dispensing system and digital radio frequency memory (DRFM)-based jamming system, which already deployed with the other air platforms. [43][44]

Propulsion[edit]

The airframe will be equipped with two engines.[45]

Preliminary Specifications[edit]

Data from Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc.[45]

General characteristics

  • Crew: One pilot
  • Length: 21 m (68 ft 11 in)
  • Wingspan: 14 m (45 ft 11 in)
  • Height: 6 m (19 ft 8 in)
  • Wing area: 60 m2 (670 sq ft)
  • Max takeoff weight: 27,215 kg (60,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls Royce & Kale design , 120 kN (27,000 lbf) thrust each

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.8
  • Combat range: 1,100 km (690 mi, 600 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 17,000 m (55,000 ft)
  • g limits: +9.0 g & -3.5 g

Armament

Avionics

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Turkish Aerospace (September 2018). "Turkish Fighter Development (TF-X) Project PowerPoint Presentation" (PDF). p. 6.
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