Turkey's boundless military hardware ambition got a boost in late January as British PM Theresa May and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan penned a deal that will see UK-based BAE Systems assist in the development of a long-touted Turkish-made fighter jet.

It is a match made in heaven; the upwardly mobile local defense sector of a struggling emerging economy and an increasingly desperate former world power looking to secure its external trade affairs as it prepares to leave the world's largest single market. When Theresa May met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in late January, few expected she was in Ankara for anything but a potential trade deal, and she didn't disappoint. The PM announced the creation of a working group to prepare the groundwork for a post-Brexit trade deal that could see bilateral commerce hit over USD20 billion. The headline, however, was the announcement of a GBP100 million deal that will see BAE Systems teaming up with state-owned Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to work on the TF-X fighter jet. This domestic project will follow in the footsteps of similar undertakings such as the MPT-76 National Infantry Rifle, the first deliveries of which were made in early January, and the Altay Main Battle Tank (MBT), which will undergo mass production imminently.

Turkey has, arguably, long looked to the skies. Back in the early 17th century, local “genius" Hezarafen Ahmed Çelebi is said to have constructed a set of wings, replete with real bird feathers, and leaped from Istanbul's Galata Tower, on the city's European banks, across the Bosphorus, landing in the Üsküdar district two miles away. If true, it was the first intercontinental human flight in history, giving Turkey a key position in aviation legend. Today, however, Turkey's Air Force is somewhat lacking, relying mostly on dated US hardware, such as the F-16 and F-4. To compound matters, the Turkish Air Force has also suffered several dents to its reputation in recent years, losing an F-4 to a missile fired by the Syrian Army in 2012 after violating Syrian airspace, then, controversially, and somewhat ironically, shooting down a Russian jet said to have penetrated Turkish airspace in November 2015. Large swathes of the Air Force were also said to have participated in the failed coup of July 15, 2016, with many pilots publicly dismissed in the aftermath. So what could possibly be better to boost morale in this struggling outfit but a brand new, state-of-the-art engine of airborne justice delivery? And in that arena, the British know a thing or two.

The aircraft, which will replace the country's current fleet of F-16s, will also be offered to foreign air forces, and is currently set for introduction in 2023, when Turkey celebrates its centenary. If the aircraft isn't overshadowed by the multitude of other projects of significance scheduled to be complete by the big year, it will wow with features closely associated with fifth-generation fighter jets, including the ability to supercruise, internal weapon bays, and much more. Eventually, the Turkish Air Force plans to adopt 250 T-FX jets.

And Turkey is no stranger to teaming up with foreign specialists in the development of military hardware. The markets are currently awaiting the announcement of mass production rights to the Altay MBT, expected to be awarded to local automotive manufacturer Otokar, which produced the prototype and is listed on Borsa Istanbul. The Altay borrows armor tech from the South Korean K2 Black Panther, and, with NATO allies in mind, features a Standardized Agreement (STANAG)-compatible targeting system. It isn't all foreign tech, however, with local defense firms providing many systems, including the sub-systems and fire control system (Aselsan), the main gun system (MKEK), the armor package (Roketsan), and technical support (Rotem). Aselsan is also getting involved in the TF-X project, and is currently developing a radar system for the jet. It has also been announced that the TF-X will be able to connect with UAVs, domestic varieties of which are already in service in the form of the TAI Anka.

Going forward, Turkey has high hopes for its indigenous hardware, and with the help of BAE Systems, the odds are high that the jet work well in an air force that is likely to have plenty to do in the future. And if the TF-X ever gets too close for missiles, it can always switch to guns.