Koreans to place bid in light copter competition
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Aerospace Industries will produce the front fuselages of 110 Surion copters.Korea Aerospace Industries, Ltd. (KAI) will take part in Turkey’s multibillion-dollar light utility helicopter contest, one of the country’s latest major tenders, according to KAI President Kim Hong-kyung.
Key helicopter producers from around the world, including the United States’ Sikorsky Aircraft, Europe’s Eurocopter and Italian-led AgustaWestland, have already expressed an interest in the Turkish program, which is set to kick of either later this year or in early 2013.
The program is expected to produce thousands of light helicopters.
KAI eyes more tenders
Kim, who is also the CEO of KAI, said in an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News that his firm was also interested in developing a fighter aircraft, dubbed KF-X, with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and that he would have talks with TAI officials. Turkey is a member of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II consortium, but Ankara has said it wants to produce another fighter aircraft with a non-U.S. partner after 2020. Kim said the Korean company also wanted to sell the advanced trainer T-50 Golden Eagle to Turkey. But that program is a long-term one as Turkey has just modernized the U.S.-made T-38, used for the same purpose.
Kim is in Turkey to mark the conclusion of the two countries’ joint program to manufacture 40 KT-1T basic trainer aircraft for the Turkish Air Force for $350 million.
The Turkish Air Force is presently performing the final inspection on the last three aircraft of the series, but they are expected to be officially delivered as early as next week, officials said. KAI is due to continue with the logistical support of the planes.
The KT-1T is the Turkish version of KAI’s KT-1 Woongbi, developed for South Korea, but it includes modifications required by the Turkish Air Force. KAI won the contract against several rivals, including U.S. company Raytheon and Brazil’s Embraer. The KT-1Ts will replace the aging U.S.-made T-37 trainer planes.
Close ties between Turkey and South Korea date back to the Korean War of the early 1950s, when a Turkish contingent of up to 15,000 soldiers, under the United Nations flag, fought against North Korean and Chinese troops.
Defense relations flourish
Despite the traditionally strong political ties, the two countries only began to develop close economic and trade relations in the past 10 years. In the defense arena, Turkey is building howitzers under a South Korean license, and Hyundai Rotem, a South Korean company is providing technical assistance for Turkey’s efforts to design, develop and manufacture its first main battle tank. TAI and KAI are also considering the development of a fighter aircraft after 2020.
Kim said South Korea was considering an effort by TAI and AgustaWestland to sell some of their T-129 attack helicopters to South Korea. Boeing and Bell Helicopter Textron are also shortlisted in the program together with the Italian-Turkish partnership. Korea is expected to decide on the winner before the end of the year.
KAI and TAI signed a cooperation pact on Oct. 8 under which TAI will produce the front fuselages of 110 KAI Surion utility helicopters. KAI is building a total of 240 KAI Surion utility helicopters for the Korean Army, and TAI will build the front fuselages of 110 of the aircraft, worth over $30 million, Kim said.