Following export financing delays, Sikorsky Aircraft has signed a final agreement with the Turkish defence ministry for 17 S-70B Seahawk naval helicopters for delivery from 2009.

The contract is a follow-on order, which adds to the fleet of seven S-70B Seahawks currently in the inventory of the Turkish Navy, taking the total to 24.

The US government reauthorised a loan guarantee to Ankara in February, but conditions imposed by the US Export-Import Bank  (Ex-Im) had threatened to derail the deal. The Ex-Im extended the deadline for a loan guarantee in January to year-end 2009, from 2008. The earlier date, which would have seen the loan repayed by 2011, did not fit in with Sikorsky's production schedule, which saw the first aircraft built in 2008. The new loan guarantee schedule was finalised in May and the remaining detaills ironed out.

The S-70B helicopter is an international derivative of the U.S. Navy SH-60B Seahawk.

The relationship between the Turkish defence ministry's undersecretariat for the defence industry SSM and Sikorsky had been strained due to the Turks withholding of a $7.5 million payment under a previous defence procurement deal, SSM accusing Sikorsky of not honouring an offset agreement.

Sikorsky will be keen to repair relations with the S-70 deal as it Bids for a Turkish requirement for 32 utility helicopters. Sikorsky is offering the S-70 Black Hawk, but has been involved in a dispute over the terms of the request for proposal.

"[The deal] clears the way for a new business partnership among Sikorsky, SSM and Turkish industry at a much more strategic level,” says Sikorsky president Jeff Pino.