Turkey says first indigenous fighter jet project is 'taking shape'
ANKARA — Turkey has advanced in its multi-billion-dollar fighter-jet project.
Officials said Turkey's Defense Industry Undersecretariat has selected foreign contractors to advance Ankara's first indigenous fighter-jet. They said the undersecretariat, known as SSM, has overseen the design of three prototypes for consideration.
"We are moving slowly, but we can look back at a program that is clearly taking shape," an official said.
In May, SSM awarded a Western defense major a contract to help direct the fighter-jet program. Under the contract, Sweden's Saab would work with the state-owned Turkish Aerospace Industries to design, develop and produce the combat jet, dubbed TF-X.
Officials said Saab would help SSM and TAI select a stealth fighter-jet prototype. They said Saab, manufacturer of JAS-39 Gripen, would draft feasibility studies for such an aircraft.
"There are still serious questions over whether Turkey should take this program to the next stage," the official said. "By the end of the year, we hope to have some answers if not decisions."
Officials said Saab's first assignment was to develop prototype designs for a presentation to SSM and the military in the fall of 2013. They said TAI was working on designs for both two- and single-engine models.
TAI was also working with Saab to find suppliers of major components of the fighter-jet. Officials said a key challenge would be the selection of an engine manufacturer that would keep project costs close to that of an off-the-shelf buy.
SSM has been moving slowly in the project. Officials said the development of a prototype fighter-jet could take a decade, with a maiden flight in 2023. The air force could receive the first indigenous aircraft by 2025.
Saab has been working with TAI since 2011. In 2011, the Swedish company signed an agreement with SSM to work on conceptual designs for the fighter-jet.