Helicopter makers prepare for Turkish face-off

Helicopter makers prepare for Turkish face-off

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Helicopter makers prepare for Turkish face-off

AP photo

Many of the world’s major helicopter manufacturers are expected to compete for a multibillion dollar contract to potentially co-produce thousands of light utility choppers in the country’s upcoming large-scale helicopter tender. 

The U.S. Sikorsky Aircraft, which won a separate $3.5 billion competition to lead the production of more than 100 larger utility helicopters for Turkey over Italy’s AgustaWestland in spring 2011, became the first major international company to formally announce it would also seek to win the light utility helicopter contest in May.

At the time, procurement chief Murad Bayar said Turkey would soon begin to design and develop a military and civilian light utility helicopter, probably with a foreign partner and possibly with Sikorsky Aircraft.

Bayar said Sikorsky, a leading manufacturer of various rotary-wing aircraft, did not have a helicopter in the category of light utility platforms, which weigh between 4,500 kg and 5,500 kg, the type of chopper Turkey wants to develop.

“Turkey and Sikorsky Aircraft can work on this matter together. If it happens, it happens. If it does not, we are ready to work with any other company,” Bayar said.

Sikorsky has teamed up with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in the co-production of the larger T-70 utility helicopter, a Turkish version of the U.S. S-70i Black Hawk International.

 Later, an AgustaWestland official said, “We will be available for Turkey if Turkey wants to work with us.” His remarks were in line with advice by Italian Deputy Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, who had urged AgustaWestland to pursue all helicopter competitions.

“AgustaWestland needs to pursue all opportunities and chances in the helicopter field,” Crosetto said in Istanbul earlier this year. “They will have to fight in a tight market.” 

In November the pan-European Eurocopter became the latest major rotary-wing aircraft maker to announce it would also seek to win Turkey’s light utility helicopter contract. 

“We want to partner with Turkey in one of their top programs. The light utility helicopter program is a key project,” said Thomas Hein, vice president for sales and customer relations in Europe. “We are developing our product range and we would like to produce a chopper from scratch with Turkey. In my personal view, all major helicopter producers in the world will seek to cooperate in such a way with Turkey.” 

Formed in 1992 following a merger of the helicopter divisions of France’s Aerospatial and Germany’s DASA, Eurocopter is now part of the European defense giant EADS and sold 20 AS 532 Cougar utility helicopters to Turkey’s military during the 1990s. Since 2006 the company has been silent on all major Turkish helicopter deals, but the remarks by Hein, who is responsible for ties with Ankara, suggest that Eurocopter is about to re-enter the Turkish market.