Paul Derby Bell Helicopter landed the first mega deal of Farnborough 2000 on the eve of the show by securing a $1.5 billion order from Turkey for 50 AH-1Z King Cobra attack helicopters. The eventual deal could be worth more than double that if Turkey buys its full requirement of 145 machines. The decision marks the conclusion of a protracted three-year contest and gives Bell the first overseas customer for its third-generation attack aircraft. First deliveries are scheduled for late 2003 and will continue at the rate of one per month for the next four-plus years. Offsets play a significant part in the agreement, with the majority of the assembly expected to be carried out in Turkey. Bell will be primary subcontractor on the programme, with Turkish firm Tusas Aerospace Industries acting as prime contractor. Bell's share of the initial contract will be worth more than $500 million. The US Congress still has the power to veto the export, but that measure is thought unlikely, given improving relations between Turkey and Greece and the far-reaching economic reforms being proposed in the strategic Mediterranean state. Bell officials at the show described the deal as fantastic news - a big win and chairman Terry Stinson says: The decision by the Turkish government solidifies the AH-1Z in the international marketplace and gives customers a technologically advanced choice when they look for an attack helicopter. Turkey already operates nine Bell AH-1W Cobra helicopters, although it is unclear whether these will be upgraded to the -Z standard. The King Cobra features General Electric T700-GE-701 engines, Litton avionics and communications and sighting equipment supplied by Turkish company ASELSAN. The aircraft beat off strong competition from a Kamov/Israel Aircraft Industries partnership offering the Ka-50 assault helicopter and the fact that Russia is neither a close ally nor a member of NATO might have tipped the balance. Bell says the deal will give added impetus to its proposals for long-standing attack helicopter competitions in Australia, Poland and South Korea.

Source: Flight Daily News