Turkish jet fighter KAAN

Turkey’s first 5th generation fighter makes its maiden flight

Turkey’s first 5th generation fighter, the KAAN (TF-X), successfully completed its maiden flight today, marking a milestone for Turkey’s national defence industry, which aims to replace its F-16 fleet with this highly manoeuvrable, low-radar-density supersonic fighter.

A KAAN prototype took off early today from an airbase north of Ankara and flew for several minutes before touching down, in what Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan himself described as a historic milestone for Turkey and its defence: “We have experienced one of the proud days of the Turkish defence industry. Our domestically produced fighter jet, KAAN, has successfully completed its maiden flight today. Turkey has crossed another key barrier in the project to develop a fifth-generation fighter jet.”

“With KAAN, our country will not only have a fifth-generation fighter, but also technologies that few countries in the world have,” said Haluk Görgün, chairman of Turkey’s Defence Industries Agency (SSB).

Developed since 2016 under an agreement between Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and the UK’s BAE Systems, the fighter was unveiled to the public in 2023, with its first runway tests almost a year ago; the development of this modern fighter is one of the most ambitious military and technology projects facing the Eurasian country. 21 metres long, with a wingspan of 14 metres, and with high-altitude and supersonic combat capabilities, the KAAN is armed with domestically produced smart munitions for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat.

Turkey’s first 5th generation fighter will be powered in its first models by two General Electric F-110 engines (the same as those used in the 4th generation F-16), although Turkey is also developing its own jet engines, which was announced this week that are “almost ready” for production, which is scheduled for 2028. The KAAN is expected to replace the current fleet of F-16s that form the bulk of the Turkish Air Force, and which will begin to be retired from 2030.