Pakistan Could Join Turkey’s Kaan Fighter Project – Aviation Week

Just days after Azerbaijan was inducted into the Kaan combat aircraft program, Turkey is planning to begin negotiations with Pakistan to do the same. 
During a speech in Karachi on Aug. 2 for the launch of a new Pakistan Navy ship, which itself was developed through a joint Turkish-Pakistani program, Turkish Deputy Defense Minister Celal Sami Tufekci said that the two countries soon would begin discussions on Pakistan’s entry into the Kaan program.  
“Pretty soon, within this month, we will be discussing with our Pakistani counterparts to officially include Pakistan in our Kaan national fighter jet program,” Tufekci told assembled dignitaries, including Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. 
Tufekci revealed that around 200 Pakistani officials and engineers already are helping support the development of the Kaan. 
The timeline for Pakistan’s potential entry into the program is unclear, but if it comes to pass, it would mark a significant move away from China as Islamabad’s partner of choice on combat aircraft.
Pakistan jointly developed the JF-17 Thunder in its various blocks and iterations with China and successfully exported the platform, while the Pakistan Air Force recently became the first export customer for the Chengdu J-10 fighter.
Recent years, however, have seen Pakistan increase defense cooperation with Turkey, which has sold Islamabad uncrewed aircraft systems including Baykar’s Bayraktar TB2 and reportedly its Bayraktar Akinci as well.  
Pakistan also wanted to purchase the T-129 ATAK attack helicopter, but the U.S. would not approve export of the Honeywell/Rolls-Royce LHTEC T800 turboshaft that powers it, resulting in the order for 30 helicopters being canceled. 
Turkish Aerospace, which is leading the development of the Kaan, has established a close relationship with Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra, the state-owned military aircraft company and maintenance, repair and overhaul house.
It is unclear where Kaan participation might leave Pakistan’s own indigenous efforts to develop a future fighter—the so-called Next-Generation Fighter Aircraft—which were initiated through Project Azm in 2017.
Azerbaijan became a formal member of the Kaan program last month when Baku signed an agreement with Ankara on the sidelines of the IDEF defense show in Istanbul. The agreement will determine working procedures and principles of cooperation on joint production and development activities for the Kaan and open the way for Azerbaijan to produce subsystems for the aircraft.
The shape of such an agreement for Pakistan is unclear, but could pave the way for Islamabad to secure more work given the country’s more capable aerospace industry.
Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.
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