Turkey’s military aircraft giant Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is set to develop new indigenous modernization kits and mission computers.
Upgrades will be applicable to all the F-16 Block 40 fighters of the Peace Onyx III and Block 50 fighters of the Peace Onyx IV programs, as well as the Block 30s that were acquired earlier. TAI plans to market the upgrades for export to other countries.
Previous news about TAI and Aselsan’s joint attempts to produce indigenous mission computers have been clarified by TAI insiders. Latest reports indicate that the companies have finalized their technical consultations with the MOD and industrial suppliers as of the end of January and the project has been given green light in order to equip Turkey’s vast fleet of F-16s with newly developed indigenous sensors and weapons such as Aselpod navigation and targeting system, various missiles and high-precision munitions produced and/or currently under development in Turkey.
Project aims to upgrade all of Turkish Air Force (TurAF) F-16s with indigenous mission computers, software and avionics in order to pave the way for the installation of an Aselsan-developed AESA radar by 2015.
Hardware for the avionics upgrade will be exclusively manufactured by Aselsan, while TAI will tackle the development of millions of lines of highly specialized software. Upgrades will be performed by the same team that performed C-130 modernization and software team mostly consists of experienced engineers who have worked on the Anka UAV development program. Upgraded aircraft will look somewhat similar to existing Peace Onyx exterior configurations, except with specific EW-E/O sensor additions and pylons capable of launching ’Made in Turkey’ guided munitions.
Integration of indigenous systems on aircraft of Lockheed Martin origin is known to be a difficult undertaking. TAI and Aselsan’s take on the project and F-16s “nationalization” at the Block 50 level is expected to offer Turkey a wide window of export and ‘transfer of technology’ (TOT) opportunities thanks to the F-16s widespread popularity around the world.
Turkey will be able to sell these countries comprehensive modernization packages like the CCIP, individual sensors and weapon systems like targeting pods and missiles, as well as “nationalization” opportunities with direct TOT.
Turkey’s ‘special status’ with the F-16 comes from its existing place among the world’s top three users of the aircraft, previous manufacturing and export experience with the Falcon (to Egypt), as well as Turkey’s long-standing partnership and commitment in the F-35 JSF program.
Some Turkish defence analysts suggest that Turkey’s newfound ability to nationalize the F-16 is simply a means for compensating the country for not being given F-35 source codes, despite the longstanding NATO member’s commitment for an initial batch of over 100 F-35s.