TechTurkey claims Kaan aircraft superior to F-35, but doubts remain

Turkey claims Kaan aircraft superior to F‑35, but doubts remain

5th generation Turkish aircraft Kaan
5th generation Turkish aircraft Kaan
Images source: © TAI

6:21 AM EDT, May 21, 2024

Commenting on the development of the Turkish 5th generation Kaan aircraft, Temel Kotil—the CEO of the Turkish TAI consortium—argued that it is better than the F-35. Although the aircraft is undoubtedly a significant success for Turkey, it is worth verifying the declarations of its creators. Does Kaan actually have an edge over the F-35?

The advantages that Temel Kotil believes Kaan has over the F-35 were recently presented by WP journalist, Norbert Garbarek. The TAI CEO argued that the Turkish aircraft carries more armament than the F-35 and also has an advantage over the American machine in the form of two engines.

These statements were analyzed by Defence24 author Maciej Szopa. Has Turkey indeed built a better combat aircraft than the United States?

A reliable comparison at the current stage of work is impossible. While the F-35 has operational readiness in many countries and is ordered by the hundreds, the Turkish design—although it has already made its first flight—is currently in the prototype stage.

What’s more, Temel Kotil's claims about the payload difference are not precise. The F-35 carries a limited payload of weapons—housed in internal bays primarily due to stealth requirements. In a configuration with weapons on external racks, the machine becomes easier to detect.

F-35 and Kaan - differences between the aircraft

The payload capacity of the F-35 is significantly higher than the data provided by the Turks, amounting to about 18,000 pounds. The payload capacity of the Kaan—although officially stated to reach 22,000 pounds—is yet to be verified.

The second alleged advantage of the Turkish aircraft is its two engines. Twin-engine designs have different characteristics compared to single-engine designs, and two engines are typical for naval or specialized air superiority aircraft.

In the case of the Kaan aircraft, the use of two engines seems to be less of a choice and more of a necessity. This likely results from Turkey's issues with sufficiently efficient propulsion units. The workaround in this case was using two propulsion units from the F-16, specifically General Electric F110 engines.

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