The stealth arms race is spreading. This image, snapped by a Flight Global reporter, Tolga Ozbek, at this year's International Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul, Turkey, this week, is apparently one of three proposed stealth fighter designs for the Turkish Air Force.
The new jets are being developed under a program called TFX aimed at producing a locally made fighter (with a little help from Swedish jet-maker, Saab) to replace Turkey's fleet of F-16s. The plan is that they will be operational sometime in the early 2020s and compliment Turkey's fleet of 116 U.S.-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
If TFX gets past the design phase, Turkey will join the United States, Russia, and China as the sole developers and operators of manned stealth fighter jets. Japan may be Turkey to the Punch with its stealth fighter program called ATD-X. (South Korea is trying to develop its own stealth jet by the 2020s, but that effort has been put on hold.)
But a big question remains for nations developing manned stealth jets: Are they even needed given the advent of stealth drones like the U.S. Navy's X-47B, France's nEUROn and Britain's Taranis that can perform reconnaissance and ground attack missions -- and even land on aircraft carrier decks? One can only imagine what unmanned planes under development 10 years from now will be capable of doing.