Negotiations between Turkey and Bell on the purchase of the first 50 of up to 145 AH-1Z King Cobra attack helicopters were due to begin as Flight International went to press this week after the US company won the ATAK competition in June.
Talks with runner-up Kamov, which proposed the Ka-52 Erdogan together with Israel Aircraft Industries, are continuing, says Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI) in case the Bell talks fail.
ATAK is the first programme in which TAI will act as prime contractor and follows its completion last November of the 16-year Peace Onyx Lockheed Martin F-16 licence manufacture programme.
The ATAK agreement included tough offset conditions and the negotiations will centre on "production and technology transfer issues of the first 50 helicopters, as well as on pricing", says TAI. The contract is due to be signed in the first quarter of 2001 with production beginning in 2002. The programme is expected to last 10 years.
Bell is the principal subcontractor in the $1.5 billion initial phase, and talks will include engine manufacturer General Electric and Tusas Engine Industries, which is expected to take a substantial part of T700-701 final assembly work.
In parallel, the Turkish ministry of defence procurement authority (SSM) is working with TAI and Turkish avionics supplier Aselsan on the locally manufactured content of the target identification system, integrated navigation system, multifunction displays, control and display unit and radio equipment.
"This is the most intensively negotiated defence industry contract ever in terms of industrialisation and technology transfer," says TAI. It will gain "systems integration, modification, production and integrated logistics support capability" from the deal, which is believed to include an agreement for TAI to offer locally manufactured King Cobras to potential customers in the region.
Meanwhile, the US Marine Corps' first AH-1Z has completed an initial powered ground test at Bell's Fort Worth, Texas facility. The T700-powered SuperCobra is due to make its first flight next month, followed by the modernised UH-1Y utility machine which shares upgrades with the AH-1Z.
Source: Flight International