According to the Bloomberg report, Turkey is pushing to co-manufacturer warplanes and missiles with Pakistan, a hookup that could also give it access to prized war technology from China.
“Turkish defense and government officials have held periodic talks with Pakistani counterparts—the last high-level discussion was in January—about developing and manufacturing military hardware with Pakistan, according to people from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations,” Bloomberg reported.
“Turkey sees nuclear power Pakistan as a strategic and potential partner in building its Siper long-range missile-defense project and a TF-X fighter jet,” the report added. According to reports, the Siper is a long-range, high-altitude surface-to-air missile system that can engage both aircraft and ballistic missiles
The TF-X (Turkish Fighter-Experimental) is a stealthy twin-engine fighter jet that Turkey intends to use as the replacement for its vast fleet of F-16 fighters. Turkey received at least 240 F-16 fighters from the US, making it the largest operator of the type after Israel and the US.
Turkey intends the fighter to carry indigenously developed radar, missiles, and electronics. In 2015, Turkey chose BAE Systems, a UK-based aerospace company, to assist in the development of the TF-X. Mock-ups of the TF-X have shown a fighter with ‘stealth features’ such as internal weapons bays and angled air intakes for the engines.
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In 2020, Turkey invited Malaysia to join in the co-development of the TF-X. Malaysia has industrial capabilities to produce composite material for the skin of the aircraft.
Speaking about the proposal at the time, Temel Kotil, CEO of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), was quoted by Defense News as saying Turkey considered “Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kazakhstan as potential partners or buyers of the future fighter jet”. Kotil declared, “[TF-X] will be the first big fighter jet of the Muslims. Building the aircraft first and then selling it is a modality. But we think it’s better if we take in partners at this stage.”
Bloomberg noted the apparent aim of the cooperation with Pakistan was to bring “Turkey closer to some of China’s military technology”. China has been Pakistan’s main strategic benefactor for decades, helping Islamabad build fighter aircraft, missiles, warships, tanks and submarines.
In 2013, Turkey announced a Chinese company had been selected to develop a long-range surface-to-air missile system. However, in 2015, Turkey announced the cancellation of the deal with China, apparently over Beijing’s reluctance to transfer technology for the project as well as pressure from NATO allies.
China already has two stealth fighter projects: The J-20 fighter that is in service and the lighter J-31 fighter that is still in development.
Pakistan also has a ‘fifth-generation fighter project under development referred to as ‘Project Azm’.
Hence, the offer of cooperation from Turkey may turn out to be appealing to Pakistan.