Turkey has expanded its airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) requirement to seven aircraft. It is expected make a final selection shortly after the recent submissions of best-and-final offers by competing teams Boeing/Northrop Grumman and Raytheon/Elta.

Ankara is to decide by the end of March between the Northrop Grumman MESA-equipped Boeing 737 and a Raytheon-led offering of the Airbus A310 fitted with the Elta Phalcon active-array radar. The stakes have been raised by Turkey, increasing from four to seven the required number of platforms, although this could be subject to funding restraints.

The competition offers Raytheon a second and almost certainly final chance to launch the A310/Phalcon, after Australia's selection last year of the 737 AEW&C for its Wedgetail programme. "If we win, we're back in the business, if not, we're out - there's a lot riding on this," says a company official.

A win in Turkey would improve Raytheon/Elta's position in the competition for a planned South Korean requirement for four AEW&C aircraft, with a request for proposals expected to be released by the end of the year. Other longer-term prospects include Italy, Israel and Singapore

Turkey has followed the Australian evaluation closely - which, in the final analysis, placed the Raytheon/Elta third behind the Northrop Grumman AURA-equipped Lockheed Martin C-130J on the basis of its comparatively high cost. The latter has been ruled out of Turkish competition because it is a UHF-band based system.

In the meantime, Boeing is working to resolve remaining US Government export licensing issues and finalising pricing with Australia. "We had hoped to be on contract by April and that's still our goal, but, because of the defence review, I don't know if it will be done by then," says Russell Szczepanik, Boeing director of Australia and New Zealand international business development.

Australia has been given two tendering options, based on six and seven 737s, but budget constraints may cut the final procurement to five aircraft. The Royal Australian Air Force has dispatched 40 personnel to Seattle for training and is to activate its No 2 AEW squadron in April.

Source: Flight International