AgustaWestland committed to AW149 despite Turkish defeat

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AgustaWestland has voiced its disappointment following Turkey's selection of a development of the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk for a 109-aircraft deal, but says it will continue to offer its AW149 to the international market.

"Turkey's aerospace industry has lost a unique opportunity to become a major player in the helicopter industry through the co-development of a new-generation helicopter," says Ugo Rossini, AgustaWestland's head of Europe.

Speaking after Turkish defence minister Vecdi Gonul on 21 April named the T-70 as the winner of the nation's general-purpose helicopter project (TUHP), Rossini said the European company had offered "an unprecedented level of co-operation", with "technology transfer, design and manufacturing autonomy".

While it had hoped to build on its previous success in selling a derivative of the AW129 Mangusta attack helicopter to the Turkish army, AgustaWestland notes: "The TUHP was conceived from the very beginning as a Black Hawk acquisition project."

Despite the setback, the company says it "is committed to carrying on with the development of the AW149." According to its market analysis, more than 8,000 helicopters in the medium-twin design's class will need to be replaced over the next 35 years.

Sikorsky, meanwhile, has revealed that the TUHP project has a total value of $3.5 billion, and will cover the production of 109 aircraft. Previous plans had suggested that up to 121 helicopters would be bought for the Turkish armed forces, plus bodies including the police, gendarma and forest ministry.

The US company says it will now move to finalise contract details with Turkey's undersecretary of defence industries procurement agency and prime contractor Turkish Aerospace Industries. It also will invest in "expanding the dynamic component manufacturing capability of Alp Aviation", in which it holds a 50% stake.

"Sikorsky looks forward to entering into this expanded partnership with Turkey to meet their present and future rotorcraft needs," says company president Jeffrey Pino.

TAI will be responsible for the assembly of all TUHP aircraft under the expected 10-year deal.