Panel to rule on police choppers
ÜMİT ENGİNSOY ANKARA
The Turkish police wants to add between 10 and 15 light utility helicopters to its current fleet.Turkey’s top decision-making body on defense procurement is expected to choose the police force’s new light helicopter type Dec. 20, a procurement official said.
The Defense Industry Executive Committee is scheduled to meet on that day. Panel members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and procurement chief Murad Bayar.
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). The Security Directorate will buy up to 15 light helicopters to bolster the force’s capabilities.
The committee meeting’s date tentatively has been planned for Dec. 20 and will depend on Erdoğan’s schedule.
Three Western companies will be competing in the bid being held by the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM), Turkey’s defense procurement agency. They are Italy’s AgustaWestland, the U.S. Bell Helicopter Textron and Eurocopter Deutschland, the European Eurocopter’s German arm.
The competition will be for a first batch of 10 to 15 light helicopters worth up to $100 million. But the winner is expected to manufacture more light helicopters for the Turkish police in follow-up batches. The winner also is expected to cooperate in the production with the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), Turkey’s state-owned aerospace company.
The Turkish Security Directorate’s present helicopter fleet is made up of mainly U.S.-made MD600 light helicopters, which are getting 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 terrorist attacks in large cities, where maintaining security falls under the responsibility of the police. “The new light helicopters will greatly boost the Security Directorate’s capabilities in all fields in which the police operate,” said the procurement official.
Separately, Turkey next year plans to launch a multibillion-dollar program to design, develop and manufacture the country’s new military and civilian light utility helicopter, probably with a foreign partner. TAI will lead that program, and several of the world’s top helicopter manufacturers are expected to compete.
The committee is also expected to decide at the meeting whether to place an order to buy a first batch of six of the U.S.-led stealth F-35 Lightning (Joint Strike Fighter), fighter aircraft for the Turkish Air Force. Turkey plans to buy a total of 100 F-35s, worth about $15 billion.