ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's military and procurement officials are planning to formalize the country's intent to buy up to 36 armed trainer aircraft, the Hurkus, procurement officials said.
Once the military and procurement bureaucracy agree on the specifications of the required aircraft, the officials said, the program will officially take off.
"There is a policy-level decision to support the Hurkus program," one official said. "As our anti-terror fight gears up, there is more need for such aircraft."
The official said Ankara plans to order 12 armed Hurkus for the Turkish Land Forces, with an option to buy 12 more units. It will also buy six aircraft for the Gendarmerie, with a follow-on order of another batch of six.
The Hurkus purchase must be ratified by the country's top procurement board, the Defence Industry Executive Committee.
In April, Turkey tested the Hurkus equipped with L-UMTAS — a laser-guided, long-range, anti-tank missile. The test was successful, according to Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI, the Hurkus manufacturer.
The armed Hurkus features armored body parts, a self-protection system, a 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 hardpoints, 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. Last July, TAI was awarded a European Aviation Safety Agency certification for the Hurkus-A, the civilian variant.
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.
Turkey (and TAI) hopes potential export markets for the armed Hurkus would 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. 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.
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.