ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s largest defense company has signed a deal with two Ukrainian businesses to share upgrade work for Ukrainian-made Mi-8 helicopters.
Military electronics specialist Aselsan will work with Ukraine’s Motor Sich and Ukroboronprom to perform electro-optical and missile upgrades on the Mi-8s. The deal was signed during Saha Expo, a defense and aerospace event held in Istanbul from Nov. 10 to 13.
Saha Istanbul is Turkey’s largest business cluster, with 645 members in the defense and aerospace sectors.
Under the plan, Aselsan will outfit the Mi-8s with either its Common Aperture Targeting System or its F-500C electro-optical system, enabling the aircraft to have laser targeting capabilities. It will also install either L-UMTAS or Cirit missile systems on the helicopters.
“The deal will involve all Mi-8s in the inventory of several militaries,” an Aselsan official said.
In 2018, the Ukrainian Air Force inducted two refurbished Mi-8 helicopters — Mi-8MTPB and Mi-8MTPI — back into service. The aircraft have large, phased array antennas fitted to the outside of both sides of the main cabin, as well as additional antennas and aerials on the tail and elsewhere.
Mi-8MTPI has the ability to detect and determine the general location and type of hostile emitters, giving it a limited capacity to conduct intelligence gathering missions on enemy defenses.
This is the second helicopter modernization effort bringing together Turkish and Ukrainian companies. In August, Turkish Aeronautical Association and Ukraine’s Ukrspecexport formed a partnership to provide repair and maintenance services for up to 1,500 Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters. As part of the contract, the partners will initially provide depot-level maintenance and repair services for the 18 Mi-17 helicopters currently in use by Turkey’s Gendarmerie force.
Under a preliminary contract, the association had serviced Mi-17s at its maintenance base in the Turkish province of Isparta, although it’s unclear how many helicopters were involved.
For work on Turkish helos and potentially foreign platforms, a new maintenance and repair facility will be established in the Turkish capital Ankara. Spare parts and engine tests will be carried out in Ukraine by Motor Sich.
The partnership expects the most immediate work performed under the Turkish-Ukrainian deal could come from Libya, Pakistan and Azerbaijan.
Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.