The British engine manufacturer, Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, has backed away from a joint defence project between the UK and Turkey. Rolls-Royce said on Sunday that they were scaling back efforts to join Turkey’s Kale Group in the building of the new fifth-generation fighter jets.
As part of a new UK-Turkey defence deal, amounting to over £100 million, Rolls-Royce was the favourite to build the engines for the new TAI TF-X fighter project. However, a report in the FT said that Rolls-Royce was worried about its intellectual property and the involvement of a Qatari-Turkish company in the project.
The TAI TF-X Fighter
The UK-Turkish partnership was announced in 2017 to build Turkey’s indigenous fifth-generation stealth jets, the TAI TF-X. These new jets are set to replace the old Lockheed Martin F-16 jets still in service.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hopes that by 2023 the TX-F will be ‘out of the hangar’ and by 2026 they ‘will be in the air’. Turkish officials have also hinted that this new jet will hopefully be available for export. Turkey has been reliant on Western and (in recent times) Russian military imports, but in an attempt to boost economic and military power, Erdoğan hopes to invigorate his country’s arms industry.
Despite the scaling back of Rolls-Royce, other British companies such as BAE Systems, Martin-Baker, and ASELSAN continue to work on the project and to bid for current and future contracts.
Rolls-Royce Intellectual Property Dispute
Rolls-Royce was labelled as the favourite to build the TF-X new jet engines; however, talks broke down between them and the Turkish government over the involvement of Qatari-Turkish company, BMC. BMC’s major shareholders include Qatari Ministry of Defence and the Turkish businessman Ethem Sancak.
Rolls-Royce has repeatedly said that it is unwilling to share intellectual property with BMC, despite reassurances from BMC that information will belong to the Turkish government.
The Turkish media has not been helpful in securing the engine manufacturing contracts, as they have been hinting that Turkey has been flirting with other engine manufacturers like Eurojet and General Electric to potentially take on the contracts.