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IDEF: Turkey poised to sign T129 contract

June deal anticipated for up to 91 attack helicopters, while utility and transport projects near decision

Turkey expects to sign a production deal for up to 91 new attack helicopters during June, with competitions to supply 34 utility and 10 heavy transport helicopters also nearing decisions.

Ankara earlier this year confirmed its choice of a T129 development of the AgustaWestland A129 International Mangusta to meet its army attack and reconnaissance helicopter requirement, with Turkish Aerospace Industries to lead the project.  A $2.7 billion deal will be signed soon for one prototype, 50 production aircraft and 40 options.

Work on the T129 project is expected to be complete within 114 months of contract signature, TAI general manager Muharrem Dortkasli said during the IDEF show. The first aircraft will complete qualification work within 58 months, enabling deliveries to commence from mid-2012. The main fuselages for the first six aircraft will be delivered to TAI for completion, while the company's workshare will increase with subsequent airframes.

Ankara plans to boost the Mangusta's performance through the integration of more powerful LHTEC T800-5 engines, required for operations in hot and high environmental conditions. The army has declined an Italian offer to provide an interim solution using surplus A129s, citing their lack of sufficient engine power.

Aselsan will fly the T129's mission computer and AselFLIR-300T electro-optical targeting sensor in an ex-Turkish army Bell AH-1S attack helicopter from August. The testbed will also be used to evaluate Rafael's Spike NTD air-to-surface missille, although Turkey currently plans to use Roketsan's UMTAS weapon with its T129s.

Turkey's contract with AgustaWestland will allow TAI to sell the T129 to export customers, and sources say Jordan, Malaysia and Pakistan are potential buyers.

Contested by the AgustaWestland AW149, Eurocopter EC725, NH Industries NH90 and Sikorsky S-70 International Black Hawk, Turkey's utility helicopter requirement includes 20 aircraft for the army, six for the navy, six combat search-and-rescue aircraft for the air force and two to support special forces operations. Ankara also expects a decision before year-end for 10 heavy transport helicopters. Its shortlist includes the AgustaWestland EH101, Boeing CH-47D/F Chinook, Erickson Air-Crane S-64E and Sikorsky's developmental CH-53K.




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