US Congress approves gunship sale to Turkey

US Congress approves gunship sale to Turkey

Ümit Enginsoy ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

U.S. Congress formally approved the sale to the Turkish Army of three U.S.-made AH-1W attack helicopters from the U.S. Marine Corps inventory.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Pentagon’s arms-selling body, on Oct. 28 notified Congress of its intention to sell three AH-1W Super Cobra gunships, made by the U.S. Bell Helicopter Textron, to Turkey, whose Army uses these gunships effectively against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a violent campaign in the country’s southeast.

In the event of no opposition from the Senate, Congress’ upper chamber, arms sales to NATO partners become automatic in 15 days. The deadline was Nov. 12 for the Super Cobra deal and it passed without a Senate veto.

Before notifying Congress officially, the DSCA makes informal pre-consultations in the Senate to see if any senators plan to veto an arms deal. It notifies Congress of a planned sale only after it becomes almost certain that the deal will face no obstacles.

Some members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congress’ lower chamber, have voiced opposition to the Turkish deal, but representatives do not have the veto power of senators.

 The deal is worth $111 million and three helicopters are expected to be sent to Turkey in the next few months and be ready for combat before the summer, when the PKK usually launches its attacks.

Turkey had acquired 10 such helicopters in the 1990s, but only six remain operational.

In recent years Ankara has been asking Washington to transfer more AH-1Ws, but the United States rejected earlier Turkish requests, saying its Marine Corps was using all 170 AH-1Ws in the Afghanistan war.

But this time a positive U.S. response was prompted by Ankara’s decision last month to host an X-band radar on its soil as part of a planned NATO shield system to counter potential ballistic missile attacks from rogue states. The U.S. administration proposed the sale from its Marines’ present inventory.

Toward the end of next year, Italy’s AgustaWestland, which has a multibillion-dollar contract for joint production of 50 T-129 attack helicopters with Turkish Aerospace Industries, is expected to begin deliveries to the Turkish Army.