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The Future of Turkey’s Airpower: The Fifth Generation Challenge

Rapid advances in technology enable incremental developments in the aerospace and defense sector, the most well-known example of which is the evolution of air power. Since the end of the Second World War, the aerospace industry has been constantly developing and providing more capabilities to air forces around the world. These developments can be grouped under ‘generations’ and today, the latest iteration is the fifth generation. Fifth generation combat aircraft or, in more general terms, fifth generation air power is the product of various technological elements and innovations. To fully exploit these developments, air forces need to have interdisciplinary vision and the capability to absorb, deploy and develop skills ranging from requirement definition to program management. This study aims to provide an understanding on the features of the next generation of air warfare, while presenting the status of the Turkish Air Force and offering suggestions on several challenges and opportunities.

The Future of Turkey s Airpower The Fifth Generation Challenge
 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Turkey is currently working on the design and development of an indigenous combat aircraft under a project called Milli Muharip Uçak (MMU, National Combat Aircraft). The MMU is stated to be a fifth generation combat aircraft because it has certain features and characteristics that are incorporated in only a handful current or upcoming aircraft. The term ‘generation’ in air warfare implies incremental qualitative developments resulting from advances in aerospace technology. With the introduction of each new capability or performance improvement, combat aircraft generations proceed, and this progress has both direct and indirect effects on warfare in general. Many different methodologies are used to classify and describe combat aircraft generations, but according to the most widely accepted approach, the latest iteration in active service is the fifth generation. Design, development and deployment of a fifth generation fighter require multi-layered, interdisciplinary program management. In other words, a combat aircraft has become more than just a military platform; it is also a techno-political asset.

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