Without The F-35, The Turkish Navy Is Desperate For Carrier Planes

The Turkish government a few years ago wanted both the latest Russian-made air-defense system and the American-made F-35 stealth fighter.

But the U.S. government balked. Turkish S-400 surface-to-air missile systems might have tracked Turkish F-35s. If Ankara leaked the data to Moscow, it could put U.S. and allied air power at risk.

So the United States in 2019 canceled Turkey’s F-35 deal and ended Turkish industry’s multibillion-dollar participation in the stealth-fighter program. The Turkish military got its S-400s, but at tremendous cost. The fallout from the F-35 kerfuffle continues.

The Turkish navy is the latest victim. The fleet planned to deploy vertical-landing F-35Bs aboard its new assault ship, the future TCG Anadolu, transforming the vessel into a de facto light aircraft carrier.

Now the navy has a carrier with no planes. The Anadolu is in the final stages of construction and could join the fleet in 2022. But it could be years before the ship embarks fixed-wing aircraft—if it ever does.

To be clear, Anadolu in any event should work perfectly well as an amphibious assault ship. It’s less clear that the vessel sans F-35 ever will function as a light carrier.

The Turkish government’s desperation is evident. There have been a flurry of proposals in recent weeks as Ankara struggles to conceptualize a replacement for the shipborne F-35.

Anadolu could embark locally-produced TB-2/3 unmanned aerial vehicles, effectively making it the world’s first drone mothership. That’s probably a more realistic scheme than the one Ismail Demir, the Turkish defense ministry’s procurement chief, floated a few days ago.

Demir insisted Anadolu could embark a naval variant of the Hürjet, a jet trainer that Turkish Aerospace Industries is developing for the Turkish air force.

“We have been working on making changes in the design of Hürjet to operate on naval assets,” Demir said. “We carried out several designs and made simulations. It has been seen that the design of its current form can evolve in this direction.”

Be skeptical. Even with modifications, the Hürjet almost certainly won’t be a very good shipborne fighter.

The Hürjet is a typical training jet. Forty-two feet long with a 32-foot wingspan, the single-engine supersonic plane—which is in the same class as the Italian M346, Russian Yak-130 and Chinese JL-9, should work just fine as a trainer and light-attack plane.

But if it’s anything like the M346, Yak-130 and JL-9—and it almost certainly is—the Hürjet wants around a thousand feet of runway if it’s going to carry a full load of fuel, to say nothing of weapons.

Anadolu is 761 feet long.

There are ways to compensate, of course. Short-takeoff aircraft such as the Harrier and F-35B swivel their engine nozzles downward to decrease their takeoff runs. The U.S. Navy’s thousand-foot-long supercarriers launch heavy conventional planes by way of intricate steam catapults. The French navy’s flattop does the same.

The Chinese, Russian and British navies equipped their carriers with bow ramps that allow lightly loaded conventional fighters to get airborne in just a few hundred feet.

Anadolu lacks catapults but has a bow ramp. There’s no reason to doubt a Hürjet could get airborne from the vessel. There are a lot of reasons to doubt the type could get airborne while carrying a useful load of fuel and weapons.

Bear in mind—Chinese J-15 and Russian Su-33 fighters have never been able to take off via their carriers’ bow ramps with full fuel tanks and more than a few lightweight missiles. A shipborne Hürjet likely would suffer the same, or greater, constraints.

After all, a J-15 has a thrust-weight ratio of .8. Many training jets have lower ratios. TAI hasn’t yet announced a powerplant for the Hürjet, but it would need to be very powerful for the type to be effective as a carrier fighter.

Which means Anadolu is likely to sail without a fixed-wing plane. It’s a billion-dollar reminder of the continuing cost of Ankara’s F-35 screw-up.

Follow me on TwitterCheck out my website or some of my other work here. Send me a secure tip

Source link