Turkish minister reveals purchase of 27 attack helicopters
Today’s Zaman (Turkey)
Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül has said that, in addition to an earlier decision to buy nine Italian AgustaWestland-made A129 attack helicopters, Turkey has also decided to lease nine A129s to meet the urgent needs of the Turkish military.
A Turkish request for the purchase of nine US-made Bell AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters is also on the table, and Turkey has not abandoned its desire to acquire them, Gönül told Today’s Zaman.
Turkey’s decision to urgently buy attack helicopters comes at a time when the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has heightened and expanded its attacks inside Turkey. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), believed to have links with the PKK, claimed responsibility for a recent bomb attack against a military bus that killed five people in Istanbul.
The Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM) announced on June 15 that it will buy nine Italian-built AgustaWestland (AW) A129 Mangusta attack helicopters.
Gönül, however, told Today’s Zaman that Turkey will also buy the Cobras that the US said it cannot deliver before 2011. But Today’s Zaman has learned that the US will only deliver two Super Cobras to Turkey, possibly in June of next year, and that it will not be able to sell more than that.
According to Gönül, AgustaWestland said it can only deliver nine A129 Mangusta attack helicopters in 2012. The minister also said Turkey has been negotiating with the company to see whether it can deliver them next year.
In a separate deal with AW, Turkey seeks to lease nine A129 Mangusta attack helicopters as soon as possible to meet its urgent needs, he added. Therefore, Gönül revealed Turkey’s plan to buy 27 attack helicopters altogether as a stopgap measure until the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI)-AW T129 becomes operational in 2013. However, local defense industry sources tell Today’s Zaman that it is very likely that their delivery will be delayed because Turkey decided to buy 27 attack helicopters off the shelf. A recent crash of the test aircraft has fueled this speculation. The T129 is a variant of the A129 being developed specifically for Turkey under the $3 billion ATAK project.