When Turkey decided in 1983 to modernize its air force, it did more than simply order 160 F-16 fighter-bombers from General Dynamics in the U.S. It also founded a fledgling aircraft industry that paid dividends during the Gulf crisis. The key to the $4.2 billion F-16 contract eight years ago was that the planes, among the world's most advanced fighters, were to be built in Turkey. A new company, Turkish Aerospace Industries, was established as a joint venture, with 49% held by General Dynamics and General Electric and 51% by Turkish state enterprises. General Dynamics provided a manager Jerry R. Jones, and trained 347 of the first Turkish employees at its facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, Jones built a 100,000 - sq. m. factory in Murted, near Ankara, and TAI began assembling airplanes.
The first F-16 built there flew in 1987; to date, the company has delivered 65 aircraft to the Turkish air force. The plant is now capable of manufacturing about 70% of the airframe. The engines are also made in Turkey, in partnership between GE and the Turkish company TUSAS. The Loral electronics countermeasures system is the responsibility of yet another joint venture, this one with Turkey's Kavala Co. The F-16's nose cone, forward fuselage, radar, avionics, and vertical and horizontal stabilizers still come from the U.S.
To make itself more than a one-contract enterprise, TAI has been busy lining up other work: it is building small trainers and light transport planes and will soon manufacture military helicopters. …