Turkey wants to build an indigenous helicopter to replace its UH-1 aircraft. (Wikipedia)
ANKARA — Turkey’s procurement planners and aerospace industry have officially launched efforts to provide the country’s thriving defense industry the ability to build an indigenous helicopter.
Turkey’s arms procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), said Feb. 14 that it had created a “Rotor Technology Center,” or DKTM in its Turkish acronym, which it tasked with researching for and earning the Turkish industry a technological readiness level.
DKTM will carry out research and development and train “scientifically competent personnel” with a view to Turkey’s indigenous helicopter program. SSM said the move came as part of a June contract it signed with the country’s aerospace specialist, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).
“There will be several contracts and subcontracts attached to this program,” said an SSM official familiar with the program, referring to local and overseas defense companies.
A 14-page document details some of the project themes as part of DKTM’s future work under four topics: power transmission systems, rotor control, gas turbine engines and certification.
DKTM will operate at TAI’s premises at a science park on the campus of the Middle East Technical University here.
According to an official document that outlines its working principles, the rotor technology center will cooperate with universities as well as private and public entities.
DKTM will produce project review reports at least once every six months, and these reports will go to both TAI and SSM for further reviews.
Private and public entities can be contracted partners for research programs designed to earn rotor and related technologies.
The procurement official said the decision to launch an exclusive unit to research and work on rotor technology is an indication of Turkey’s intentions to design, develop and manufacture an indigenous helicopter.
“The final goal is to build a helicopter with as much local input as possible,” the official said.
Last summer, procurement authorities formalized their plans to build a Turkish helicopter when they tasked TAI with the job.
The program was launched in June 2010, and TAI submitted its bid to become the local prime contractor in October 2012. TAI’s 5-ton, twin-engine “light” helicopter would meet Turkish military requirements in the medium and long terms, but it will offer a civilian model for the commercial market.
The new Turkish helicopter would replace the country’s aging UH-1 “Huey,” but it also could meet Army training needs.
Officials say Turkey intends to use know-how and technology transfers that it would earn from a Sikorsky-led utility helicopter program.
In May, Turkey’s procurement officials said they came near to signing a US $3.5 billion contract with Sikorsky Aircraft for the co-production of scores of utility helicopters, but a contract has yet to be announced.
Turkey in 2011 selected Sikorsky as its partner company to lead production of the country’s next-generation utility helicopters. Sikorsky’s T-70, the Turkish version of its S-70 Black Hawk International, defeated Italian-British AgustaWestland for the contract.
The S-70 Black Hawk International is flown by the militaries of dozens of countries, including Turkey. AgustaWestland competed with its TUHP 149, the Turkish version of its newly developed AW149.
The first batch will total 109 utility helicopters, but with follow-on orders, more than 600 machines could be built at a cost of more than $20 billion, according to defense analysts. ■