Ankara may have hoped that President Joe Biden might reverse course on sanctions imposed on Turkey, and even allow the NATO nation to rejoin the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. However, during his confirmation hearings with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested a review of the sanctions was in order.
Additionally, he added that the State Department would even have to determine whether there was more that needs to be done, following Ankara’s purchase of the Russian-built S-400 Triumf.
Given those facts, it is likely Turkey won’t be getting the F-35 anytime soon and thus will move ahead with its domestically-built TAI TF-X fighter instead. As of last August, a factory to manufacture the fifth-generation was completed and could soon be used to produce the aircraft, which Turkey has said could be ready to take its first flight by late summer 2023.
The new facility reportedly consists of some nine blocks that comprise around 63,000 square meters, while a working area just for the engineering team takes up about 25,000 square meters or just over a third of the total space. The facility features the latest manufacturing techniques, including the ability to employ 3D printing using titanium alloys.
The TF-X was developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in collaboration with BEA Systems and was designed to replace the F-16 Fighting Falcons currently in service with the Turkish Air Force. Additionally, Ankara has announced that the still-to-be-built aircraft would be offered for export.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that building the TF-X was “the best response to those threatening to end Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 program.”
A pre-production prototype of the Turkish aircraft, which resembled the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, was presented at the 2019 Paris Air Show. At the time TAI claimed it could reach a top speed of Mach 2, have a 600-mile effective combat radius, and could have hardware specifications similar to the F-35 – but without the F-35’s advanced avionics.