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Jet Trainer Aircraft (T-X) Freedom Trainer

The Jet Trainer Aircraft (T-X) and Fighter Aircraft [TF-X] Conceptual Design Project is conducting a “Conceptual Design” study to design and produce prototypes for modern platforms that meet Turkish Armed Forces needs. It will substitute Turkish Air Forces existing T-38 Trainer Aircraft and F-16 Fighter Aircraft to be replaced in the 2020's, by employing domestic capabilities to the maximum extent possible. The project aims to maximize the utilization of existing domestic capabilities, identify critical technologies during the development and production phases of the aircraft and coordinate the planning of industrialization requirements.

On 23 August 2011 the agreement for “Jet Trainer and Fighter Aircraft Conceptual Design Project” was signed between the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industries (SSM) and Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) to begin a national fighter jet project. Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, Air Forces Commander Gen. Mehmet Erten and Defense Industry Undersecretary Murad Bayar attended the signing ceremony held in Ankara.

Within the framework of the agreement, in order to meet the 2020 and on “Jet Trainer and Fighter Aircraft Conceptual Design Project” aircraft, the following will be realized:

  • Determination of the operation requirements,
  • Activities of necessity analyze
  • Definition of the concept of the aircraft and system / sub-systems,
  • Feasibility of national potential and capability,
  • International cooperation models.

By the end of the agreement, the results of the technical and administrative activities will be evaluated by SSIK and decision will be made for the next step.

Aviation Week reported in December 2016 that privately held Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) were collaborating on a clean-sheet trainer – designated ‘Freedom Trainer’ – for the US Air Force T-X program. SNC is owned by husband and wife Fatih and Eren Ozmen, Turkish-Americans who acquired the company in 1994. The company has grown from 20 employees to nearly 3,000, and claims 34 locations in the United States, England, Germany, and Turkey.

The SNC-TAI Freedom Trainer will be a lightweight twin-engine trainer with an all composite airframe. It will be powered by two Williams International FJ44-4M business jet turbofans, each providing 16.01 kN in thrust. The engine also powers the Leonardo M-345 and Aero L-39NG. With a fully digital fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system, the Freedom Trainer is envisaged as advanced, but also cost-centric. The significant use of existing off-the-shelf subsystems was part of that decision, so as to produce a design without an expensive research and development overhead.

The Freedom Trainer will meet the T-X RFP requirements, including 6.5 to 7.6-g sustained and high angle-of-attack (AoA) maneuverability. However, SNC and TAI also aim to make the Freedom Trainer less costly to procure and operate than its competitors, especially in terms of fuel consumption. The Freedom Trainer will be offered by Freedom Aircraft Ventures LLC, a joint SNC-TAI subsidiary based in Centennial, Colorado. With an expected requirement of at least 350 units, the USAF T-X program is the largest single opportunity for many – and evidently, an increasing number of – aviation vendors.

TAI’s entry in this space is interesting considering that the company is offering a basic trainer in the form of the Hürkus, which it is pitching as a T-37 replacement. The inclusion of the Freedom Trainer in the lead-in fighter-trainer (LIFT) or fighter-conversion unit (FCU) space gives TAI a complete training portfolio (i.e. the Hürkus for basic flight training and the Freedom Trainer for fighter-conversion).

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