Turkey’s KAAN Fifth-Generation Fighter Jet Conducts First Flight

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

Turkey’s first fifth-generation aircraft, KAAN, completed its first flight on Wednesday, part of the country’s efforts to upgrade its air force.

Turkish Aerospace Industries CEO Temel Kotil said the flight took 13 minutes and the aircraft reached an altitude of 8,000 feet.

A video shared on social media showed the jet’s takeoff, flight, and landing at Akinci Air Base.

Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan posted Wednesday that his country had cleared a “very critical stage on the way to producing its own fifth-generation warplane,” noting that the aircraft will inspire confidence in friends and strike fear in enemies.

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.

It will initially be powered by two General Electric F-110 engines, which are also used on fourth-generation Lockheed Martin F-16 jets.

Turkey launched its TF-X project to produce a national combat aircraft in 2016.

“With KAAN, our country will not only have a fifth generation fighter jet, but also technologies that few countries in the world have,” Haluk Gorgun, head of Turkey’s Defence Industries Directorate (SSB), said in a post on social media platform X.

Kaan is the result of well over a decade of effort from the Turkish Air Force, which prioritized developing domestically-made combat aircraft beginning in December 2010. Turkey aims to field fifth-generation fighter jets that will eventually replace the country’s F-16 fleet.

Turkey sees KAAN as a replacement for the F-35s

Wednesday’s flight heralds a promising step forward for Turkey, especially after it was expelled from the US-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

The decision followed the country’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system. US officials characterized the weapon as a “Russian intelligence collection platform,” that could gather data on and threaten F-35s in development.

Experts say that KAAN has a decade or so to go before manning the Turkish Air Force squadrons in meaningful numbers.

As a result, Turkey is currently looking at two fourth-gen options. In November, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Gular announced that Ankara is in talks to buy 40 Eurofighter Typhoons.

The US announced in late January that it is unfreezing a large deal of 40 new F-16 fighters to Turkey.

President Biden sent a letter to four senior members of Congress urging them to quickly approve a $20 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, following the vote by Turkey’s Parliament to allow Sweden to join NATO.

In October 2021, Turkey asked to purchase twenty billion dollars worth of Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters and nearly eighty modernization kits for its existing warplanes.

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