THE CLINTON Administration is sitting on a year-old request from Turkey, for ten additional Bell Helicopter, Textron AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters.

The White House has held up the foreign-military sales transaction for fear that the gun-ship sale to Turkey would damage US relations with Greece.

The lack of action also reflects pressure from human-rights advocates who fear that Ankara will use the gun-ships to attack civilians such as Kurdish rebels.

The Turkish military currently operates 20 AH-1Ws and wants ten more to satisfy current military requirements. Bell Helicopter Textron officials also say Turkey plans to launch a competition within the next 12 months for procurement of more than 100 advanced helicopter gun-ships.

The helicopter maker plans to offer the AH-1W with a new rotor system and advanced cockpit being developed for the US Marine Corps. The fear in the USA is that Eurocopter, which already supplies Cougar utility helicopters to Turkey, could step in the gap left by the US hesitation to mount a serious bid for the next-generation attack requirement with its Tiger helicopter.

Source: Flight International