US refuses engine production in Turkey for attack choppers

April 2nd, 2008  

Topic: US refuses engine production in Turkey for attack choppers

US refuses engine production in Turkey for attack choppers
The US administration has turned down an Italian request for the transfer of technology for US T800 engines to pave the way for their production in Turkey and to be mounted on Turkish attack helicopters intended to be co-produced with Italian Agusta Westland.
Unlike an earlier statement made by Undersecretary Murad Bayar of the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM) to daily Hürriyet that the Italians had ensured that an export license for production of T800 engines in Turkey at Tusas Engine Industries Inc. (TEI) facilities, local sources close to the project told Today's Zaman that the US has only agreed to extend technical assistance support for the engines, not their production in Turkey.
The engines to be mounted on Turkey’s attack helicopter play an important role in the project since it would increase the efficiency of the helicopters in line with the request made by the Turkish Land Forces Command.
The US refused to sign a manufacturing license agreement (MLA) with Italy for the LH Tech T800 engines but agreed to sign a technical assistance agreement (TAA) that envisages technical support to be given for the engines to be fitted on Turkish attack helicopters, said the same sources.
The SSM and Italian manufacturer Agusta Westland signed an agreement in September of last year for the co-production of 51 A129 attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopters at the Tusaş Aerospace Industries (TAI) facilities in Ankara. The project, worth around $2.7 billion, is codenamed T-129.
The project involves local production of software source codes and hardware as well as the integration of high-technology avionics on the helicopters. But due to delays in both export license approval by the US, as well as the Italian government’s late approval of its company transferring the necessary technology for the production of helicopters in Turkey, the project has not yet begun.
The SSM, believing that the latest technical hurdles have been overcome, plans to make the project effective in the first half of April, soon after the planned meeting of the SSM Executive Committee on April 9, during which the procurement of some arms projects will be decided.
Plans for the acquisition of attack helicopters date back more than 10 years, to when Turkey first decided to buy them as an urgent requirement. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), allegedly unhappy about the selection of the Agusta Westland model over concerns it would not meet its operational requirements, has urgently sought the transfer of around 10 used Cobras from the US to meet its needs during the increased fight with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists.
But US has so far turned down the Turkish offer, due to the unavailability of Cobras, and instead offered armed Black Hawk or possibly Apache attack helicopters.
In the meantime, the Land Forces Command refused an Italian offer for the transfer of its own attack helicopters as an interim measure, despite the fact that the Italian helicopters were selected for co-production in Turkey and were intended to be used by the Land Forces Command.
There has been increased speculation in Ankara that Turkey’s attack helicopter plans with Italy may fail, mainly because the Turkish configuration requests on the helicopters are hard to meet.
Turkey to opt for US Sikorsky multipurpose helicopters
The SSM Executive Committee, which includes Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt and Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül, cancelled a multipurpose helicopter acquisition project at its Dec. 5, 2007, meeting.
Instead it decided Turkey would conduct talks with the US Sikorsky and Italian Agusta Westland for the procurement of over 80 helicopters for the TSK, worth around $1.5 billion.
However, Today’s Zaman has learned that the SSM Executive Committee is expected to cancel its 2000 decision, under which a tender was opened for the helicopters’ acquisition. Instead Turkey may now buy US Sikorsky helicopters as a sole source.
Meanwhile, during its April 9 meeting the SSM Executive Committee may decide on the winner of another long-awaited acquisition, the Göktürk electro-optical satellite project -- worth around $230 million.
Turkey has decided to eliminate Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) from the Göktürk project. A selection is expected to be made from among Italian Telespazio, Germany’s OHB-System and Britain’s EADS Astrium.
Due to heavy French involvement in the Italian offer, the TSK is allegedly inclined not to favor Telespazio, while reportedly preferring German OHB-System, though local industrialists state that Germany does not have a proven satellite system.
Britain’s EADS Astrium, meanwhile, has reportedly increased its level of technology transfer offer to Turkey, while minimizing French content in the project to make its system more attractive.
Turkey has reduced its ties with France following the latter’s adoption of a resolution condemning Ottoman Turks for alleged responsibility in a so-called genocide of Armenians during World War I.


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