Pakistan, Turkey to jointly develop ‘Islamic world fighter jet': What you need to know

Pakistan and Turkey as recently as 28 February announced that they would be working on the first ‘Islamic world fighter jet’.

The two countries — headed by Imran Khan and Recep Tayyip Erdogan — said they would be jointly developing a fifth generation fighter jet, which would most likely replace their existing fleet of fighters.

Is this a development that India should be worried about? We aren’t sure of the implications yet, but here’s what we know of the project thus far:

Fifth-generation fighter jet

According to a report in Aaj News, Temel Kotil, president and chief executive officer at Turkish Aerospace Industries announced that they would be developing the TF-X along with Pakistan.

Air Vice-Marshal Dr Rizwan Riaz, Pro-Rector Research, Innovation & Commercialisation (RIC) at National University of Science and Technology (NUST) confirmed the same, saying that the two countries were collaborating on the fighter jet.

The TF-X, the fifth-generation jet, is expected to meet the operational requirements of both countries and will replace their Lockheed Martin jets.

The two countries plan to develop a prototype in 2023 and conduct the aircraft’s maiden flight in 2026.

The TF-X (Turkish Fighter-Experimental) is a stealthy twin-engine fighter jet that Turkey wants to replace its vast fleet of F-16 fighters.

The project was launched in 2011. Turkish Aerospace Industries will lead the program and employ engineers from Pakistan.

Kotil said the TF-X is “like F-35”. Interestingly, Kotil has previously referred to the TF-X as the “first big fighter jet of the Muslims”.

Defence Turkey, a Turkish defence website, has estimated it would cost around $21 billion to develop and produce the TF-X fighter, including $7.3 billion for development alone.

Replacing its old fleet

With the TF-X, Turkey hopes to replace its ageing fleet of old F-16 Falcons that are in dire need of repairs and upgrade. Similarly, Pakistan aims to replace its F-16 and Mirage III fighter jets.

Why the Pakistan-Turkey collaboration?

According to reports, Turkey opted to collaborate with Pakistan as it has been unable to completely develop the fighter jet on its own due to the economic crisis it has been suffering over the past few years.

Moreover, Bloomberg had reported that the cooperation with Pakistan appears to be aimed at bringing “Turkey closer to some of China’s military technology.”

The project was also necessitated after Turkey's ties with US soured. Initially, the Erdogan government had planned to procure F-35s from the US. But, ties between the two countries soured after Turkey purchased the Russian S-400 missile system. After extended discussions and political wrangling, the United States expelled the country from the stealth fighter project.

Growing Pakistan-Turkey defence ties

This is not the first time that Turkey and Pakistan would be collaborating on a defence deal.

As per a PTI report, the two countries have been involved in a number of defence projects, including the purchase of helicopters and the development of drone technology.

In July 2021, Turkey and Pakistan agreed to increase their cooperation in the military field, especially in training and the fight against terrorism.

Last year, Turkish Aerospace Industries signed a contract with Pakistan's National Engineering and Science Commission {NESCOM} to produce military drones, namely Anka unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the Business Recorder.

Pakistan | War,Politics,Science | 2022-03-23 |