Money Talks: Turkish KAAN Fighter Jet’s Price Tag Soars Higher Than F-35

The Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) had initially disclosed that their recently unveiled fifth-generation fighter jet from Ankara would be priced at approximately $100 million. This information was announced by Mr. Temel Kotil, who serves as the CEO of TAI, two years prior to the aircraft’s debut.

According to recent statements made by Mr. Temel Kotil, the CEO of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the unit cost of the KAAN, Turkey’s fifth-generation fighter jet, may be higher than previously anticipated. This announcement presents a contrast to the original estimate of $100 million, which was disclosed by Mr. Kotil two years ago when the fighter was first introduced.

Comparatively, the US-made Lockheed F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, which was never received by Turkey, has an estimated value of $75 million without an engine, and approximately $85 million with an engine, according to publicly available information. However, it is worth noting that the F-35 has been in the market for a decade and has been purchased by numerous countries, which may have contributed to its lower cost.

TAI plans to manufacture two KAAN fighters per month and aims to reach this production capacity by 2029. The final cost of the KAAN will largely depend on the type of engine used, and while the prototypes are currently powered by F110 engines, TAI is seeking to develop an engine with Turkish-owned intellectual property. It is noteworthy that F110 engines have already been delivered to TAI in June 2022.

Kale Group and Rolls-Royce are currently in discussions to collaborate on the development of an engine for the Turkish fighter jet. Rolls-Royce has been involved in the project from the outset, at least in theory. However, in recent years, the British company has been unable to reach an agreement with Turkish manufacturers, with one of the key points of contention being the intellectual property rights of the engine.

The engine that powers the first KAAN prototype is widely recognized in the industry as the General Electric F110. This engine is utilized in a range of aircraft including the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, Grumman F-14 Tomcat, McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle, Mitsubishi F-2, and Boeing F-15EX Eagle II. Despite its reputation, this engine is unable to meet the requirements of the Turkish defense industry.

According to sources, TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) aims to generate an annual revenue of USD 2.4 billion through the production of their TF-X KAAN fighter aircraft, which will occur after the first batch of acquisitions by Turkey has been made and paid for. However, in order to achieve this goal, Turkey will need to sell the fighter to other countries, which may prove to be challenging if the price point remains higher than that of its competitors, such as the F-35 or the Russian Su-57.

Experts predict that in the coming years, the price of the KAAN may become comparable to that of the Chinese J-20 fighter, which reportedly sells for approximately USD 110 million per unit. To balance the price and increase market competitiveness, TAI is considering collaborating with Pakistan on the KAAN program. Pakistan has expressed interest in participating in the program and has purchased drones from Turkey in the past, which has strengthened their partnership in the defense industry.

Turkey is also looking to enter the Asian market more aggressively, with Pakistan potentially serving as a gateway to that market. However, they will face competition from South Korea’s KAI KF-21 Boramae, which has already established a presence in the region by securing a partnership with Indonesia. The cost of the Boramae is estimated to be between USD 80 and USD 100 million.

The first flight of the KAAN is scheduled for 2026, although it is possible that the timeline may be accelerated. Turkey has a track record of completing tests ahead of schedule and efficiently executing projects.

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