Turkey picks A129 in delayed attack helicopter competition

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Ankara to negotiate with AgustaWestland for an initial 51 locally assembled aircraft

Turkey's defence industries undersecretariat, the SSM, is to hold exclusive contract negotiations with AgustaWestland after selecting a development of the manufacturer's A129 International to meet its long-delayed attack helicopter requirement.

Chosen in a final competition with South Africa's Denel Rooivalk, the aircraft will receive national-specific modifications including new avionics and engines and be redesignated as the T129 in Turkish service.

The SSM is expected to conclude negotiations for the purchase of 51 aircraft from the Finmeccanica company, including around 20 options, with these to undergo final assembly in Turkey by Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI). AgustaWestland says the initial 51-aircraft phase will be worth more than €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) to the company, while the SSM expects the entire procurement to total around $2.7 billion. Deliveries are anticipated from 2013, with a potential 40 additional aircraft to be held as longer-term options.

To represent the first export sale of the A129, the selection follows years of faltering attempts by Turkey to acquire a new attack helicopter fleet. Ankara previously selected the Bell AH-1Z King Cobra, but cancelled the deal in 2004 after a protracted wrangle over its future ability to modify US-sourced equipment. Bell and Boeing in late 2005 decided against contesting the relaunched project, and bids from Eurocopter and Russia's Rosoboronexport arms agency were rejected last June.

Turkey plans to replace the A129 International's LHTEC CTS800 engines, possibly with the supplier's T800-801, while new avionics equipment and other mission systems will be sourced from national supplier Aselsan. TAI will also manufacture spare parts for A/T129s for the Italian and Turkish armies under the production agreement, with Ankara to gain rights to sell the type to third parties.

"Our strategy is to go as near as possible to the final customer," says AgustaWestland managing director Giuseppe Orsi. "In this case, our partner is TAI, a Turkish state-controlled company already producing aircraft and willing to enter the rotary-wing business."

 
© Craig Hoyle / Flight International   

Turkey's selection of AgustaWestland's A129 will be its first export sale