According to the defense news website, on July 12, The Turkish government officially launched a local development competition for the turbofan engine to power the country’s national fighter jet TF-X.
Turkey’s defense procurement agency, SSB, issued a request for proposals (RFP) in June, inviting potential bidders for the program. The SSB said that two Turkish engine makers, Tusas Engines and TRMotor, have responded to the RFP.
The head of the agency, Ismail Demir, the government’s top procurement official, told the media that TAEC, a joint venture between British engine maker Rolls-Royce and Turkish industrial group Kale, will also reply to the RFP soon, making it a three-way competition. Kale Group owns 51% of TAEC.
The planned TAEC engine is expected to power the TF-X at an altitude of 40,000 feet and help it reach flight speeds of up to Mach 1.8.
Demir said the government’s necessary conditions or basic requirements are: production of the planned engine in Turkey; intellectual property rights owned by Turkey; no export license restrictions; cost-effective.
Demir said the products of TAEC engines meet all the criteria, but Turkey owns one criteria, intellectual property. “If Rolls-Royce does not agree to our deal, Turkey will move forward with its indigenous development of engines.”
One of the two local bidders, Tusas Engines, is a government-controlled company headquartered in Eskisehir in northwestern Turkey, established in 1985 as part of GE Aviation, Turkish Aerospace Industries, Turkish Armed Forces Fund A joint venture with the Turkish Airlines Association.
Another domestic bidder, TRMotor, was founded in 2017 by SSTEK, a subsidiary of purchasing agency SSB. Tusas Engines, the parent company of Tusas Engines and Turkish Aerospace Industries, wholly owns TRMotor.
SSB plans to build prototypes of the TF-X fighter jets using American-made F110 engines. The GE F110 engine is an afterburner turbofan produced by GE Aviation and uses the same core machine design as the company’s F101 engine, also manufactured under license from Tusas Engines.
“We will likely use the F110 engine in the mass production of the TF-X,” DeMille said.
But a senior industry official and engine expert said powering the TF-X with the F110 engine could prove difficult. “Mass production may require a lot of investment and testing time. Also, this option will bring the same export licensing and intellectual property issues that the Turks don’t like Rolls-Royce’s solution,” said the official, speaking on anonymity.
DeMille also said that the British company BAE Systems had presented Turkey with a new proposal for the TF-X program. “The new proposal is for the second phase of the TF-X fighter program, and we will respond after checking whether the technical support proposal meets our requirements,” DeMille said.
The second stage of the TF-X fighter is to complete the preliminary conceptual design.
Top British manufacturers such as BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce are no strangers to the TF-X fighter program.
In October 2016, Rolls-Royce offered Turkey a co-production partnership to power the planned Turkish platform and possibly sell to third parties.
The company’s proposal involves setting up a production unit in Turkey to make engines for the TF-X fighter jet and helicopters, tanks, and missiles.
In January 2017, BAE Systems and Tusas Engines signed an agreement worth more than £100 million ($120 million) to develop Turkish fighter jets.
“We have partnered with Turkish Aerospace to bring engineering expertise to the TF-X program,” BAE Systems tweeted on February 15, 2022.
Turkish officials say the first flight of the TF-X is planned for 2026. It will be operational in 2029.