ANKARA, Turkey — Amid a costly military incursion into neighboring Syria, Turkey’s government and military leaders have endorsed plans for the acquisition of scores of new armored vehicles and a pair of utility helicopters.
Procurement officials said the armored vehicles order will support the campaign in Syria, which he said may last several months.
“Part of the Syrian theater is about asymmetrical warfare … which requires counterinsurgency systems,” he explained.
The Turkish military launched an offensive into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria on Jan. 20, citing a terrorist threat to its neighboring provinces. Turkish officials say Operation Olive Branch will expand further east into other Kurdish-controlled areas.
Turkey considers the Kurds to be terrorists. As of Feb. 12, the military headquarters said more than 1,200 terrorists have been neutralized and 31 Turkish troops have been killed.
Turkey’s top defense procurement panel on Jan. 31 discussed and reviewed a total of 55 programs totaling $9.4 billion.
The procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, or SSM, announced Jan. 31 that the programs were reviewed with a view to adding new indigenous projects to the existing portfolio. SSM said the “decisions were made” at the meeting of the Defence Industry Executive Committee, or SSIK, but did not give details.
But an SSM official said that SSIK endorsed the acquisition of two utility helicopters to replace two Sikorsky Black Hawks that had crashed. He said the planned platforms could be “new or used” and will be delivered to the Gendarmerie force.
“This will be a stop-gap solution in parallel efforts to our ongoing utility helicopter program,” the official said.
In June 2016, Turkey signed a $3.5 billion contract with Sikorsky for the co-production of a batch of 109 utility helicopters. Turkish Aerospace Industries is the local prime contractor.
Turkey selected Sikorsky for the utility program in 2011 and signed a preliminary contract in 2014, but the Turkish and U.S. sides had bargained since then over U.S. export licenses for the planned utility helicopter, the T-70 Black Hawk, which will come in two different configurations. The T-70 is the Turkish version of the international variant of the S-70 Black Hawk.
Under the 10-year utility program the T-70s will be delivered to six different users: the Land Forces, Air Force, Gendarmerie General Command, Special Forces Command, Security General Directorate and the country’s forestry department.
The SSM official said that SSIK also decided to award a contract to FNSS, an Ankara-based, privately owned armored vehicles manufacturer, for the acquisition of 170 eight-wheel drive tactical armored combat vehicles.
Industry sources estimate the contract to come between $175 million and $200 million.
FNSS is a partnership between Turkey’s Nurol Holding and BAE Systems.
SSIK also decided to open contract negotiations with another armored vehicles manufacturer, BMC, for the purchase of a batch of 700 four-wheel drive vehicles.
The contract with BMC will include the purchase of a batch of 116 Kirpis, BMC’s signature mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.
Industry sources said the four-wheel drive vehicle contract likely will be worth about $150 million, and the Kirpis will cost about $35 million.
Put together Turkey’s new orders for armored vehicles will reach close to $400 million.
BMC and FNSS also are rivals in a multibillion-dollar contract for the serial production of an initial batch of 250 Altays, Turkey’s first indigenous, new-generation tank in the making. The third rival is Otokar, the producer that designed and developed the Altay.
All three contenders on Feb. 8 submitted their best and final offers to SSM. The government is expected to announce its final decision on the Altay program within two months, officials say.