MERSIN, Turkey — Niger has become the first foreign customer of the Hurkus trainer aircraft, produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries.

Turkey’s Directorate of Communications said Nov. 19 on its website that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke with his counterpart in Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, by phone about bilateral relations. “President Erdoğan stated that the TB2 drones, Hurkus aircraft, and armored vehicles that Niger would procure from Turkey would strengthen its military and security forces,” according to the directorate’s statement.

Temel Kotil, the head of TAI, first made mention of the Hurkus export during a TV interview on CNN Türk on Nov. 11, but he did not name the customer. Kotil said at the time that the company signed a contract for export, with the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in six months.

Officials have not disclosed the quantity and exact variant associated with the order. However, Kotil said in an April interview that the company was very close to exporting 12 Hurkus-C aircraft.

“The sale of Hurkus marks Turkey’s first military aircraft export that was designed and manufactured entirely with domestic resources,” Kotil said during the Nov. 11 interview.

Mehmet Cem Demirci, a Turkish political and security analyst, told Defense News that the export deal is important for Turkey because it shows the country can develop military aircraft that meet both national needs and foreign standards.

“Turkey has been in the foreground in armed drone exports in the recent years, but now we’re witnessing the sale of a manned aircraft. Furthermore, it is a competitive aircraft that was designed and engineered in Turkey,” Demirci said. “The Erdoğan administration seems to have prioritized African countries in its search for alternate markets. This is the second deal revealed following Erdoğan’s October visits to African states. Turkish Dearsan Shipyard has recently signed a contract with Nigeria to build two offshore patrol vessels.”

The analyst expects the Turkish government or local defense companies will announce more deals with African states in the following months.

The Hurkus is a tandem two-seat, low-wing, single-engine turboprop aircraft that was designed as a new-generation trainer as well as a platform for performing light-attack and armed reconnaissance combat missions.

The Hurkus-C is an armed variant that can be used for close-air support missions. It is fitted with a forward-looking infrared sensor and has a maximum weapons load of 3,300 pounds. It’s able to take off and land on unprepared runways. The main advantage of the Hurkus-C is that it reduces the cost of air power, particularly in low-intensity conflict theaters where anti-air warfare threats are negligible.

Tayfun Ozberk is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News.

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