WASHINGTON - Turkey's top decision-making body on defense procurement late Wednesday moved to delay a decision on a solution that would meet the nation's military and civilian needs for general purpose helicopters over the next couple of decades. National Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül told reporters after the committee meeting in Ankara that the committee would later meet again for the helicopter decision, but did not say when, according to the Anatolia news agency.
The utility helicopter program was a top agenda item at the Wednesday meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee, whose members also include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ and Undersecretary Murad Bayar.
A senior official had said that the committee was expected to select a winner in the competition between U.S. and European companies. The winner should manufacture the platforms together with Turkish defense firms.
The contenders include the U.S. Sikorsky Aircraft, offering its S-70 Black Hawk International, and the Italian-British AgustaWestland, competing with the TUHP-149, a model designed for the Turkish deal.
In recent weeks, the two companies have proposed vast joint production opportunities favoring the indigenous Turkish industry to bolster the chances of their options.
The initial batch in the utility helicopter program, worth more than $1 billion, is for the acquisition of 109 platforms, including 69 military choppers and 40 others for civilian purposes. The civilian platforms will include 20 firefighters and 20 police helicopters.
But the whole program will be much larger. "This will eventually become a huge program, because it is designed to meet all our needs for utility helicopters in the future for both military and civilian purposes," a senior procurement official had said.
The program is expected to add the production of about 15 new helicopters each year, the official said.