Turkey gears up efforts for indigenous rotor production

Turkey gears up efforts for indigenous rotor production

Turkey gears up efforts for indigenous rotor production

Turkey’s ATAK, T-129 attack helicopter, co-produced by Italy’s AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is seen in this file photo. TAI is also tasked with producing a local helicopter.

Another sign has emerged that Turkey’s defense industry planners are serious about their ambition to manufacture an indigenous helicopter locally, with Ankara recently launching efforts to build the capability to produce a Turkish rotor.

Turkey’s civilian defense procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), has said a “Rotor Technology Center” has been launched. The move comes as part of a June 2013 contract that the SSM signed with the country’s aerospace powerhouse, the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).

The SSM said the rotor technology center, or DKTM according to its Turkish acronym, would aim to build rotor technologies through research and development activity and to train the scientifically competent personnel Turkey’s defense industry would need in the future, especially in view of a program to design, develop and manufacture the country’s first indigenous helicopter. 

The DKTM is planning to organize a workshop on March 14 for discussions on its own working principles and projects as part of the rotor production program. 

Last summer, Turkish procurement authorities formalized their plans to build a Turkish helicopter when they tasked TAI with the job. 

The program was launched in June 2010, and TAI submitted its bid to be the local prime contractor in October 2012. TAI’s five-ton, twin-engine “light” helicopter will meet the Turkish military requirements in the medium- and long-run, but will also have a civilian model for the commercial market.

Sikorsky cooperation

The Turkish helicopter aims to replace Turkey’s aging UH-1s, but it could also be used to meet Army helicopter training needs. 

Officials have said Turkey intends to use know-how and technology transfers it would earn from a Sikorsky-led utility helicopter program.

In May 2013, Turkey’s procurement officials said they came close to signing a $3.5 billion contract with Sikorsky Aircraft for the co-production of scores of utility helicopters, but a contract has yet to be announced.

Turkey in 2011 selected Sikorsky as its partner company to lead production of the country’s next-generation utility helicopters. Sikorsky’s T-70, the Turkish version of the company’s S-70 Black Hawk International, defeated Italian-British AgustaWestland for the contract. The S-70 Black Hawk International is used by the militaries of dozens of countries, including Turkey. AgustaWestland was competing with its TUHP 149, the Turkish version of its newly developed AW149.

The first batch will be for 109 utility helicopters, but with follow-on orders, more than 600 machines could be built at a cost of more than $20 billion, according to defense analysts.

Sikorsky and AgustaWestland had announced benefit packages worth billions of dollars each. Several Turkish companies, most notably TAI, will take part in the joint production.