11 Mayıs 2010 Salı
Turkey close to choosing copters, vehicles
Turkey’s ultimate decision-making body on defense procurement is preparing for a tough meeting next month, a gathering that likely will see final decisions on helicopter and armored vehicle deals worth billions of dollars.
A procurement official said over the weekend the meeting is planned for mid-June, probably June 15. The meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee will be a panel of debate on several defense programs and “would be decisive on some of the long-awaited contracts,” the official said.
The committee is chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Its other members include National Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül, Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ and Murad Bayar, head of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, or SSM, Turkey's procurement agency. The exact date for the meeting will depend on the prime minister’s schedule.
The committee usually meets three times a year. No major decisions came out from its last gathering in January.
But major contracts expected to be awarded at the June meeting include the co-production of utility, or general purpose, helicopters and the manufacture of hundreds of armored vehicles.
The U.S. company Sikorsky Aircraft and the Italian-British AgustaWestland are eyeing the Turkish utility helicopter contract. Sikorsky is offering the T-70, a Turkish version of the S-70 Black Hawk International, and AgustaWestland is proposing the T-149, a Turkish version of the AW-149.
In the first batch of production, the military plans to purchase at least 120 platforms, and more than another 30, including 20 firefighters, will go to civilian purposes. The first batch alone is expected to cost over $1.5 billion. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command and Coast Guard Command are among the buyers of the first batch of military utility helicopters.
Sikorsky and AgustaWestland submitted their best and final offers to the SSM in February.
The Turkish Aerospace Industries, Turkey's main aerospace manufacturer, officially will be the program's prime contractor although the production work will be led by the selected foreign company. Several other Turkish firms also will take part in the production.
"After the first batch, we expect to order the manufacture of nearly 20 helicopters a year from this assembly line for many years," said the procurement official. "So the model we will choose soon will be Turkey's standard utility helicopter model over the next 20 years."
Turkey also hopes to export the jointly manufactured utility platform, said the official.
With planned follow-on orders, the overall size of the utility helicopter program is expected to be around $5 billion, said one Ankara-based defense analyst.
Presently, the Turkish military is operating several different types of utility helicopters. The military has more than 100 S-70s, more than 100 older U.S.-made UH-1 Hueys, more than 20 French-designed AS-532 Cougars and about 15 Russian Mi-17s.
At its next meeting the Defense Industry Executive Committee also is expected to select a winner for an Army program to buy 336 special purpose tactical wheeled armored vehicles, worth nearly $200 million.
Otokar, FNSS and Hema Endüstri, three leading Turkish armored vehicle manufacturers, are seeking the contract for the production of the 6x6 wheeled vehicles, which will include command and control, radar, support and nuclear-biological-chemical reconnaissance configurations.