Here Are The Military Aircraft Turkey Hopes Make Maiden Flights In 2023

Turkey has some interesting military aircraft and drones currently under development that it hopes will make their maiden flights in the coming year, the country’s centennial.

However, the most sophisticated aircraft by far currently under development in Turkey, the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI or TUSAS) TF-X national fighter jet, will not grace Turkish skies during centennial ceremonies as previously hoped.

In November, a video showed the initial prototype of the TF-X taking form on the assembly line. Turkey reportedly aims to roll it out on Mar. 18, 2023, which analysts note may be an overly ambitious timeline.

Turkish officials had high hopes that the TF-X could fly in 2023 on time for the centennial.

In November 2017, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Caikli claimed the aircraft would become operational by 2023. “I won’t give an exact date but our primary goal is to make it fly in 2023,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed similar hopes in February 2020. “I hope our warplane, which will use domestic resources at every stage of design and production, will fly out of the hangar in 2023,” he said.

In June 2019, TAI displayed a mockup of the TF-X at the Paris Air Show. TAI President and CEO Temel Kotil claimed it was “going to be the best fighter aircraft in Europe” and said he expected the prototype to make its maiden flight in 2025.

At present, the TF-X prototype is expected to make its first flight around 2025-26, with the first production aircraft rolling off the assembly line sometime in the early 2030s. But even that projection could ultimately prove optimistic.

Furthermore, Ankara will likely end up compromising on the aircraft’s stealth features in order to begin serial production on time. As a result, the first versions will, at best, be a highly-advanced 4.5-generation aircraft, not wholly unlike the Block 1 variant of the upcoming KF-21 Boramae fighter under development in South Korea.

On the other hand, we will likely see some other Turkish aircraft and drones flying for the first time in 2023.

Bayraktar Kizilelma

The Bayraktar Kizilelma jet-powered prototype completed taxi and takeoff trials in November 2022. Its maiden flight will most likely commence in early 2023.

The Kizilelma is Turkey’s first jet-powered drone. Baykar claims it “will be a force to be reckoned with, specifically given its aggressive maneuvering capability and stealthiness against radar.”

In addition to having a canard-delta configuration that resembles China’s J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighter, the Kizilelma also features an internal weapons bay and can even fire air-to-air missiles, potentially offering it some protection against enemy drones or helicopters.

The drone’s expected maximum takeoff weight will be 6,000 kilograms (13,228 pounds), which includes a 1,500 kg (3,306 pounds) payload. It will carry out intelligence gathering and strike operations. Baykar also claims the Kizilelma will come equipped with an indigenous active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and “will be able to take off and land on short-runway aircraft carriers” such as Turkey’s upcoming TCG Anadolu (L-400) amphibious assault ship.

TAI Hurjet

The Kizilelma isn’t the only supersonic aircraft Turkey plans to fly in 2023. TAI has been developing a supersonic trainer called the Hurjet, a successor to the turboprop Hurkus.

As with other supersonic trainers, the Hurjet can also serve as a light combat aircraft. It can fly as fast as Mach 1.2 and reach altitudes of 45,000 feet. These characteristics put it in the same broad category as Italy’s M-346 Master and South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle.

The Hurjet’s maiden flight was initially scheduled for 2022 but is now expected to make its first flight in March 2023. Turkey approved serial production of the aircraft in January 2022.

In Turkish service, the Hurjet will replace Turkey’s aged Northrop T-38 Talon trainers and F-5 fighters. On Dec. 6, 2022, one of those F-5s crashed after its engines stopped upon being hit by a bird.

Turkey hopes the Hurjet will also become a success on the export market, possibly replicating the growing success of Korea’s T-50 and its KA-50 combat version — 48 of which were recently ordered by Poland.

TAI Goksungur/Simsek

TAI is also developing a subsonic drone with a maximum speed of Mach 0.7 that will be named either Goksungur (“sky”) or Simsek (“thunder”). The drone is designed for gathering intelligence and providing fire support.

A TAI official confided to Defense News that the company also hopes to develop a fully supersonic version. The anonymous official also claimed that TAI is experimenting with using the small drone in combined operations with the company’s Aksungur drone, the largest drone built by Turkey to date.

TAI may eventually develop a smaller version that could be launched from the Aksungur.

The first of the drone is expected to take flight in February 2023.


TAI is also developing the T929 ATAK 2, a new version of the T129 ATAK attack helicopter. The ATAK 2 will be significantly heavier, with twice the takeoff weight of the original, developed on the airframe of the Italian AugustWestland A129 with Turkish-built components and subsystems.

The upcoming heavy attack helicopter can carry various Turkish-made munitions, including unguided rockets, guided long-range UMTAS anti-tank and Cirit 70 mm missiles, and air-to-air missiles.

The upcoming helicopter is slated to serve in the Turkish Land Forces as well as the Turkish Navy. In the latter, it will operate from the TCG Anadolu. Turkey’s U.S.-built AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters will serve on the flagship as an interim solution until the ATAK 2 enters service sometime around 2025.

In June 2021, after it was officially announced that TAI would procure 14 engines for the T929 from Ukraine’s Motor Sich, TAI CEO Kotil highlighted the symbolic importance of having such new locally developed aircraft taking flight during Turkey’s centennial.

“In its 100th year, we, as TAI, will make an assertive entry into 2023,” he said. “It will be a year in which almost all of our projects will take flight.”