Ari Egozi/TEL AVIV

A venture linking Agusta of Italy with Israel Aircraft Industries has emerged as a bidder for the Turkish air force's attack helicopter programme. The team is offering an upgraded Agusta A129 Mangusta attack helicopter for the competition.

Although the A129 has always been a contender for the deal, the teaming has come as a surprise following IAI's earlier decision to become involved with Russian helicopter design bureau Kamov, and its Ka-50 Hokum, in competing for the Turkish programme. A separate part of the Israeli company has now teamed with Agusta, although it is offering a similar avionics and weapons upgrade package for the A129 to that offered for the Ka-50.

The Turkish air force is planning to purchase up to 150 combat helicopters, estimated to be worth $3 billion. A shortlist is expected to be announced before the end of the year. Boeing with the AH-64 Apache, Bell with the AH-1 Cobra, and Eurocopter, offering the Tiger, are also bidding for the contract.

IAI's Lahav division has teamed with Kamov, while its Tamam site is linked with Agusta in pitching for the Turkish contract award.

According to Doron Rotem, general manager of the Tamam plant, the A129 will be offered with an Israeli avionics suite, including night targeting and electronic warfare systems. The helicopter, unlike the baseline A129 configuration, will also be capable of carrying the Boeing AGM-114 Hellfire, as well as the Israeli Rafael NT-D anti-tank missile. The NT-D is also being offered for the Ka-50.

IAI in recent years has become a significant arms supplier to the Turkish defence forces, mirroring a strategic rapprochement between the two states. The company is already upgrading the Turkish air force's McDonnell Douglas F-4's.

An IAI led Israeli-Singapore consortium was also recently awarded the contract to upgrade Turkey's Northrop F-5s.

Source: Flight International