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Avideo released today shows the initial prototype of the TF-X next-generation fighter — which is being built by Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TUSAS — starting to take shape. The size of the jet makes an immediate impression, but the program will almost certainly face some significant hurdles, especially if Ankara wants to keep its target of service entry in the 2030s.
The first prototype of the TF-X — the program is known as Milli Muharip Ucak (MMU, or National Combat Aircraft) in Turkey — is now on the assembly line in Ankara, with the bulk of the fuselage and wings having been brought together. The twin engines are clearly still missing, as are the outward-canted tail fins and the horizontal stabilizers. While the cockpit canopy is seen installed, the cockpit itself is yet to receive its avionics and ejection seat. A placard attached to the spine of the jet reveals that the video was shot on November 21, during an official visit to the assembly line by members of the Turkish defense ministry, defense-industrial agency, and the Turkish Air Force.
Overall, the timeline for the TF-X has slipped somewhat. When a full-size mock-up of the fighter was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in 2019, TUSAS President and CEO Temel Kotil said that the goal was to achieve a first flight with the prototype in 2025. At the same time, it was hoped that the first production examples would enter service as early as 2028.
Now, the maiden flight is reportedly scheduled to take place in 2025 or 2026 and the first production machines should start to be delivered to the Turkish Air Force in the early 2030s.
The TF-X program was originally launched in December 2010, with the aim of developing a homegrown fifth-generation combat aircraft. From the outset, it was to include a degree of stealth characteristics, advanced avionics, and a high level of performance.
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