By Thiago Vinholes
Turkey’s first 5th gen fighter , the TF-X from Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) now has a more appropriate designation: Kaan. The name of the aircraft was unveiled on May 1st in a pompous ceremony at TAI facilities in the capital Ankara, with flyovers by Air Force aircraft, large audiences and the participation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Kaan is a very popular male name in Turkey (and Central Asia) and has multiple meanings, all of which indicate power.
“King of Kings”, “The Sovereign”, “The indomitable warrior of earth and sky”, among other terms. In Turkish, it also literally means “Khan, ruler”, which comes from the ancient title of the Mongol Empire founded by Genghis Khan.
In a long speech in which he addressed national issues and the evolution of Turkish military capacity in recent years, Erdoğan spoke about the characteristics of Kaan in a didactic and detailed way.
“Imagine a plane that will enter your lair without being seen by the enemy. He will return to his base as silently as he came. This plane will be made by the country’s own engineers and pilots will fly it. The Kaan will be equipped with its own radar and mission computer. In a few years, we will complete all the tests and hand them over to inventory. We will be one of the five producing countries of this type of 5th generation fighter in the world”, said the Turkish president.
Entry into service in 2029
The new Turkish fighter is still under development with test stages in preparation for the maiden flight. As previously mentioned by Erdoğan, the preferred date for the Kaan’s first flight is October 29, 2023, when the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic will be celebrated.
The TF-X program has been developed for about a decade by the Turkish government, which wants to establish greater independence from foreign suppliers. The country, located between Europe and Asia, has maintained unpredictable relations with the West, its neighbors in the Middle East and the nuclear powers Russia and China.
Originally, the Turkish Air Force should have received F-35 fighters, but the purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles prompted former US President Donald Trump to withdraw Turkey from the Joint Strike Fighter program.
Without the chance to operate Lockheed Martin’s 5th generation jet, the TAI Kaan could fill the country’s stealth interceptor gap. The new fighter is also expected to replace the more than 200 F-16 fighters in the Turkish fleet over the next decade.
TAI schedules the entry into service of the Kaan in Turkey for mid-2029. The Turkish Air Force, although participating in the project, has not yet formalized an order for the aircraft. Preliminary data from TAI indicate that the Kaan will have a maximum take-off weight of 27,200 kg, 19 meters in length by 12 meters in wingspan and a maximum speed of Mach 2 (2,470 km/h).
The fighter will be powered by two General Electric GE F110 engines produced under license in Turkey by TUSAŞ Engine Industries (TEI) – versions of this engine are used, for example, in the F-15 and F-16 fighters. Later, the aircraft should receive an indigenous engine based on the Eurojet EJ200 – an engine based on the Rolls-Royce XG-40 used in the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Kaan christening event was one of several recent achievements in Turkey’s aerospace industry. Last week, TAI completed the maiden flight of the Hürjet, the first supersonic jet built in Turkey. Also in April, the TAI T929 ATAK 2 attack helicopter prototype flew.
In addition to progress with manned military aircraft, Turkey is also gaining notoriety in the drone segment. Another Turkish company, Baykar Technology became famous with the Bayraktar series models, used by Ukraine in the war against Russia. The manufacturer is still working on Kizilelma, a stealthy drone.
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