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Turkey Plans to Replace F-16 With Next Generation Fighter Jet TAI Kaan

TAI KAAN fifth-generation fighter jet for Turkey
A TAI KAAN prototype during the taxiing and ground running tests on March 17, 2023. Credit: Dimir / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Turkey is seeking to replace its fleet of F-16s with a domestically produced fifth-generation fighter jet dubbed the TAI KAAN, previously referred to as the TF-X program.

The stealth, twin-engine, all-weather air superiority fighter is being produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries with the British multinational BAE Systems acting as sub-contractor. To alleviate the financial burdens of the project, Ankara is currently seeking foreign partners to assist in development.

During his tenure, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been keen to promote and expand his country’s domestic defense sector, with aerospace playing a key role. Upon completion, the TAI KAAN is expected to provide the Turkish military with next-generation capabilities. Acquisition will also be open to other states who wish to procure the aircraft.

Specifications of the TAI KAAM

The TAI KAAN indigenous design and development program prime contract was signed on August 5, 2016, between the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) of the Ministry of Turkish National Defence and Turkish Aerospace. Once the development of the aircraft is completed, it is expected to remain in service with the Turkish military until the 2070s.

Since the TAI KAAN is still under development, its specifications are subject to change. However, an overview of the expected design is available on the Turkish Aerospace website.

The aircraft is expected to have a wingspan of fourteen meters (forty-six feet), a length of twenty-one meters (sixty-nine feet), and a height of six meters (twenty feet). The TAI KAAN is projected to deliver a 2x 29,000 lb engine thrust, a top speed of Mach 1.8, and a high service ceiling of fifty-five thousand feet. It is slated to possess impressive maneuverability, with +9g and -3.5g limits.

According to TAI, the aircraft will deliver capabilities and features such as high situational awareness, an optimized pilot workload, combat damage detection, new-generation mission systems, low visibility and infrared trace, and interoperability with other military assets.

Turkey seeks partners for next-generation fighter jet

Due to the fiscal constraints imposed by its ongoing economic difficulties, Turkey is seeking foreign partners to lessen the financial burdens of its next-generation fighter jet program.

Thus far, Pakistan and Azerbaijan have both expressed interest, with the latter having signed a National Fighter Aircraft Development Cooperation Protocol in July.

“With the protocol, it is aimed to determine the working procedures and principles of cooperation with Azerbaijan on joint production issues, including the development activities of the 5th-generation national combat aircraft Kaan, which is being developed for the Turkish Air Force,” commented the Turkish Defence Industry Agency.

Speaking to Defense News, Ozgur Eksi, a defense analyst in Ankara, said, “Getting in foreign partners is like subletting part of your house: You share expenses, but disputes become inevitable and troubleshooting takes much longer than normal.”

“Hydrocarbon-rich Azerbaijan has money,” Eksi continued. “Pakistan does not but could transfer know-how. Once combat-proven, the KAAN could be an option for countries without access to Western-made fighter aircraft.”

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