Wednesday, April 02, 2008

US refuses engine production in Turkey for attack choppers

The US administration has turned down an Italian request for the transfer of technology for US T800 engines to pave the way for their production in Turkey and to be mounted on Turkish attack helicopters intended to be co-produced with Italian Agusta Westland.

Unlike an earlier statement made by Undersecretary Murad Bayar of the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM) to daily Hürriyet that the Italians had ensured that an export license for production of T800 engines in Turkey at Tusas Engine Industries Inc. (TEI) facilities, local sources close to the project told Today's Zaman that the US has only agreed to extend technical assistance support for the engines, not their production in Turkey.

The engines to be mounted on Turkey’s attack helicopter play an important role in the project since it would increase the efficiency of the helicopters in line with the request made by the Turkish Land Forces Command.

The US refused to sign a manufacturing license agreement (MLA) with Italy for the LH Tech T800 engines but agreed to sign a technical assistance agreement (TAA) that envisages technical support to be given for the engines to be fitted on Turkish attack helicopters, said the same sources.

The SSM and Italian manufacturer Agusta Westland signed an agreement in September of last year for the co-production of 51 A129 attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopters at the Tusaş Aerospace Industries (TAI) facilities in Ankara. The project, worth around $2.7 billion, is codenamed T-129.

The project involves local production of software source codes and hardware as well as the integration of high-technology avionics on the helicopters. But due to delays in both export license approval by the US, as well as the Italian government’s late approval of its company transferring the necessary technology for the production of helicopters in Turkey, the project has not yet begun.

The SSM, believing that the latest technical hurdles have been overcome, plans to make the project effective in the first half of April, soon after the planned meeting of the SSM Executive Committee on April 9, during which the procurement of some arms projects will be decided.

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