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BUSINESS > Top defense panel to meet for fighter, chopper moves

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Turkey is set to purchase six multinational
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II. REUTERS photo

Turkey is set to purchase six multinational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II. REUTERS photo

Ümit Enginsoy Ümit Enginsoy uenginsoy@aol.com

Turkey’s top defense industry panel will meet today to possibly approve the purchase of a first batch of six multinational and next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II aircraft, procurement officials and analysts said yesterday.

The top item at the gathering was expected to be whether to place an order for an initial batch of F-35 stealth fighters. If the committee decides to make the order, deliveries of the F-35 would likely begin in 2015. If not, deliveries to Turkey would be delayed until 2016.

Turkey is a member of the F-35 consortium, but has not yet committed itself to officially buying the aircraft although plans to operate around 100 aircraft eventually. Other consortium members include the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Norway and Denmark.

Other countries have shown an interest in buying the aircraft, but are not members of the consortium, as is the case with Israel. A recent decision by Japan to buy the F-35 has been a major push for the aircraft; Japan and Israel, meanwhile, are expected to receive deliveries in 2016.

The tri-annual meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee, whose members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and procurement chief Murad Bayar, was originally scheduled for Dec. 20, but was delayed until today due to Erdoğan’s busy working schedule.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee is expected to also select today the type of light helicopter for Turkish police force use, officials and analysts said.

The committee’s decision is expected to come at a time when the Turkish police are preparing to assume a larger role in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The Police Department will soon buy up to 15 light helicopters to bolster the force’s capabilities.

Competing in the bid tendered the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), Turkey’s defense procurement agency, will be Italy’s AgustaWestland, the U.S. Bell Helicopter Textron and Eurocopter Deutschland, the European Eurocopter’s German arm. 

Winners will produce a first batch of 10 to 15 light helicopters worth up to $100 million and is also expected to manufacture more light helicopters for the Turkish police in follow-up batches. The victor is likely to cooperate in the production with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), Turkey’s state-owned aerospace company. 
The Police Department’s present helicopter fleet is mainly made up of U.S.-made MD600 light helicopters, which are becoming older and more difficult to operate. 

The new light helicopters should better perform police tasks, including tracking suspected criminals and intervening in incidents that could erupt during mass demonstrations, industry sources said. 

The PKK in recent months has intensified attacks in large cities, where maintaining security is the police’s responsibility. “The new light helicopters will greatly boost the Police Department’s capabilities in all fields in which the police operate,” said the procurement official.

January/05/2012

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