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Turkey’s armed trainer ready for assault missions

April 11, 2017 (Photo Credit: Turkish Aerospace Industries)
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish industry, procurement and military officials have showcased an armed version of the country’s first indigenous basic trainer aircraft, the Hurkus. 
 
At a high-profile ceremony on April 7, the Turkish officials tested the Hurkus equipped with L-UMTAS — a laser-guided, long-range, anti-tank missile. The test was successful, Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries announced. The ceremony was attended by Defense Minister Fikri Isik; Turkey’s chief procurement officer, Ismail Demir; Land Forces Commander Army Gen. Salih Zeki Colak; and senior company officials. 
 
The armed Hurkus features armored body parts, a self-protection system, data link, laser tacking, an electro-optical and infrared pod, an external fuel tank, and advanced avionics, according to TAI. With its 1,500-kilogram payload that can be utilized through seven external hard points, the Hurkus will perform light attack and armed reconnaissance missions. 
 
L-UMTAS was developed by the state-controlled missile maker Roketsan primarily to operate from attack helicopters. In 2016, the system was qualified and integrated into the T-129, a Turkish attack helicopter built under license from AgustaWestland. 

L-UMTAS has an effective range between 500 meters and 8 kilometers. Its tactical features include day and night operational capability; fire behind mask; effective operation against stationary and moving targets; wide firing envelope that allows off-boresight engagement; and insensitive munition Type V capability against fuel fire and bullet impact. To fire at a target from behind a mask refers to a "natural or artificial screen hiding the target from the gunner," according to the second volume of "Military Science and Tactics."
 
The Hurkus close-air support and lightweight attack helicopter is an armed version of the Hurkus turboprop-powered basic trainer Hurkus. Last July, TAI was awarded a European Aviation Safety Agency certification for the Hurkus-A, the civilian variant. 
 
TAI hopes to deliver the armed Hurkus to the Turkish Armed Forces in 2018. 
 
In addition to L-UMTAS, the Hurkus can be equipped with other missile systems developed by Roketsan: UMTAS, an anti-tank guided missile, and Cirit, a laser-guided rocket.

Turkish procurement authorities hope the armed Hurkus will have strong export prospects.
 
“Simple market rules will apply here. … First, the aircraft and its systems will become combat-proven after their use in the Turkish military. Then it will have robust international competitiveness in its category,” one procurement official offered. 
 
Aviation industry sources say TAI’s main competitors from a longer-term perspective could include the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano and IOMAX Archangel. All three models are positioned to provide close-air support in low-intensity combat environments.
 
TAI expects the armed Hurkus to be widely used in Turkey’s increasing counterinsurgency fight against pro-Kurdish and Islamic militants both inside Turkey and across its Syrian and Iraqi borders. 
 
“The armed Hurkus has matured quite timely. It will be a valuable asset [for the Turkish military] in fighting asymmetrical threats. It also will substantially cut back air power costs compared to the conventional use of fighter jets,” said Ozgur Eksi, a senior analyst at C4 Defence. 
 
Regarding future export deals, TAI officials say potential markets for the Hurkus-C could include Gulf, North African and Asian countries. Last year, Turkey started talks with Pakistan for the sale of the Hurkus basic trainer aircraft.
 
TAI’s engineers began to design the Hurkus in 2004. For the Hurkus program, TAI signed two contracts with Turkey’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, also known as SSM, its Turkish acronym. One contract was for prototype development and the other for serial production. Under a June 2014 serial production contract, TAI will deliver 15 aircraft with a follow-on option for 40 more.
 
The Hurkus platform features a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68 turboprop engine that comes with a power rating of 1,600 shaft horsepower and a maximum speed of 574 kph. TAI’s sister company, Tusas Engine Industries, which specializes in engines, is locally developing a turboshaft engine to replace the Pratt & Whitney Canada engine.
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