ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's aerospace powerhouse, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), has completed the construction of the first prototype of what will become the country's first indigenous helicopter.
The five-ton, twin-engine light helicopter will have dual civilian and military use, officials say. It will have two pilot seats and can carry 12 passengers.
The indigenous helicopter, the T-625, will replace the aging UH-1Hs in the Turkish military's inventory.
The future versions of the T-625 will include ambulance and search-and-rescue models. The T-625s also will be used to train pilots.
TAI officials say the T-625 will go through its first field tests in the first half of 2018. Its maiden flight has been scheduled for Sept. 6, 2018. The next step in the program is to obtain international certification for the platform.
Turkey's procurement office, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), signed the deal for the indigenous helicopter with TAI in 2013. TAI has since been doing the design, development and prototype production work.
TAI hopes to build a platform designed by Turkish engineers with customized subsystems that can also compete on international markets with its performance and price. The first-ever indigenous Turkish helicopter would be sold to the Turkish military first, and then to international markets.
TAI officials expect to sell around 800 helicopters to the Turkish military and about 400 to foreign buyers. Turkey presently is the world's ninth-biggest helicopter market.
But industry sources and analysts say that Turkish ambitions to build the country's first national helicopter may face hurdles including costs, timeframe, technology and marketing.