Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in Ankara on Thursday that Turkey’s 5th generation fighter jet will make its first flight in 2025.
Turkey’s first indigenous combat aircraft, the National Combat Aircraft (MMU) will emerge from hangars in 2023, he said at a mass opening ceremony for 16 factories that will operate in the Space and Aerospace Industry Zone, an engineering hub for manufacturing the groundbreaking jet fighter.
“It will take its place in the skies in 2029 as the strike force of the Turkish Air Force, after successfully completing its test procedures,” said Erdogan.
Şimdi sıra, ülkemizin en önemli savunma sanayii projelerinden biri olan Millî Muharip Uçağımızda… 🇹🇷 pic.twitter.com/ou6cPh9ojq
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) January 7, 2022
Some 2,300 engineers involved in the project will carry out their work at this hub, Erdogan stated.
Erdogan: Turkey shunned by weapons suppliers
The Turkish President referred to global suppliers, and the “overt or covert embargoes”, Turkey has faced, in his Friday remarks.
“We are now raising the bar much higher and preparing our country for future warfare. By increasing our research and development investments, we are one by one implementing the systems that require high technology.”
Turkey is among the elite club of the ten countries in the world that can design and build their own warships and is also among the top three drone producers, Erdogan added.
Touting the growth of Turkey’s defense industry over the last two decades under the rule of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Erdogan said the number of its defense projects has topped 750.
He said their budget also jumped to $75 billion and annual profits rose to $10 billion.
New fighter jet in Turkey to replace F-16s
Turkey is set to complete the domestic design and development of National Combat Aircraft by 2029, which will replace the aging F-16 fleet of Turkish Air Force.
In October 2021, it asked to buy 40 F-16 fighter jets from the US to upgrade its air force. The move coincided with the recent deal struck by Greece to acquire Rafale jets and frigates from France.
The deal, worth billions, is still working its way through the Foreign Military Sales process, which is subject to approval by the US State Department as well as the US Congress which can block deals.
However, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, expressed his opposition to the sale of US F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in an interview with Air Force Magazine.
“I personally am not supportive of giving them F-16s,” Menendez told Air Force Magazine during a visit to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
“I just really have a problem,” he said. “This is not the Turkey that we aspire for, is not the type of NATO ally that is behaving in a way that we should be able to go ahead and give it some of the most sophisticated fighting equipment.”