Turkish industry is on track for the certification of its locally-assembled Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk – known as the T70 – by early next year, as part of the country’s Turkish Utility Helicopter Programme (TUHP).
An industry official working on the TUHP activity told FlightGlobal at the IDEF exhibition in Istanbul that the T70’s military certification is expected by February 2020.
Prime contractor Turkish Aerospace will be responsible for the manufacturing and final assembly of the T70 at its Ankara facility, while Aselsan is working with Sikorsky on providing a new Integrated Modular Avionics System (IMAS). The first prototype helicopter with the IMAS is expected to fly within a few months.
Four prototypes have now been delivered by Sikorsky to support the TUHP, with one committed to Aselsan’s avionics work and the rest available to Turkish Aerospace to support airframe qualification.
Deliveries should begin around March 2021– about a year later than initial projections by Turkish industry. The official says the first examples handed over will be in a more “basic” configuration destined for the General Directorate of Forestry, while T70s with a common baseline configuration for the air force, army, special forces, national police and gendarmerie will follow a few months after.
A total of 109 T70 rotorcraft will be manufactured in Turkey, with production eventually ramping up to around 24 per year. Turkish industry will also build an additional 109 aircraft as part of a “buy-back” scheme with Sikorsky, effectively allowing the US company to sell Turkish-built helicopters on the export market.
The 10t-class T70 will be powered by GE Aviation T700 engines, which will be licence-produced in Turkey by Tusas Engine Industries.
Despite deteriorating Turkish-US relations, the TUHP procurement does not appear to be affected – unlike Ankara’s participation in the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme. Officials speaking at IDEF were keen to stress that the recent spat between Ankara and Washington is not having an impact on the T70’s development.