Is the US losing its dominance in the fighter jet market?

by Haydar Oruç

On 14 August 2023, Foreign Policy magazine published an article entitled “The fighter jet market is entering a multipolar era“, written by Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace and defence executive and consultant. The article argues that the US is in danger of losing its leadership in the fighter jet market, which it has held since the Cold War, and advises US policymakers on what they should do to avoid this.

The article notes that for a long time the US met most of the world’s fighter aircraft needs with the F-16, but with the emerging need for a 5th generation fighter aircraft, the F-35 replaced the F-16 from 2015, and underlines that the F-35 alone will not be the mainstay of US defence exports in the coming period due to recent attempts by some countries to produce their own national fighter aircraft.

European countries such as the UK, France, England and Sweden, as well as South Korea, Turkey and India have made significant progress in this area, and it is recalled that the most concrete progress to date has been made by South Korea with the KF-21 Boramae aircraft. It also notes that Turkey’s new national aircraft, KAAN, is also keen to enter the sector as a new player.

The article emphasises that while there was already a high demand for defence industry products due to conflicts in various parts of the world, this demand has increased significantly with the Ukraine crisis. And that countries are now more willing to produce their own national systems, and new products are entering the market. It notes that this situation has made the market more competitive, particularly for the US, and makes some recommendations to US export regulators in this regard.

The article states that the current export rules in the defence industry do not serve the interests of the US, as they are not flexible and simple enough, and emphasises that decision-makers should immediately take the necessary facilitating measures in this regard.

Another important point in the article is that due to the high cost of developing defence industry products and the desire of countries to develop their own weapon systems, the marketing of expensive compact products such as fighter jets is now being replaced by the marketing of products such as jet engines, jet radars, electronic warfare systems or missile systems.

As the article makes clear, the fighter jet market is the locomotive of the defence industry and as such is of strategic importance. Just as even US experts say that precautions should be taken for the coming period, Turkey should pay more attention to the national or joint fighter jet projects it has initiated and should already create the necessary infrastructure not only for its own use but also for the export of these aircraft.

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