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Turkey's helicopter decision delayed, again

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 4/12/2011 12:00:00 AM | ÜMİT ENGİNSOY

Turkey's top procurement body has once again delayed a much-expected, multibillion-dollar decision on helicopters planned for Tuesday.

Turkey's top procurement body has once again delayed a much-expected, multibillion-dollar decision planned for Tuesday to select between an U.S. company and an Italian firm to lead the production of Turkey's next generation of military utility helicopters.

The key reason is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ongoing visit to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.

The members of the Defense Industry Executive Committee, the top procurement body, are Erdoğan, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner and procurement chief Murad Bayar.

One procurement official said now the decision is expected to be announced toward the end of next week.

In the Turkish competition, the U.S. firm Sikorsky Aircraft is offering its T-70, the Turkish version of its S-70 Black Hawk International, which presently is being used by the militaries in dozens of countries, including Turkey.

Italy's AgustaWestland is competing with its TUHP 149, the Turkish version of its newly developed A-149. The contract following the Defense Industry Executive Committee's decision is expected to be worth around $4 billion. This first batch will be for 109 utility helicopters, but with follow-on orders, more than 300 are expected to be built with a price tag of over $10 billion, according to defense analysts.

Turkey's decision originally was expected at the committee's two earlier meetings on Dec. 15 and March 22. Last week procurement officials suggested that it was expected on April 22.

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