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Turkey will produce Black Hawk helicopters under license

The Government of Turkey and Sikorsky, an American aviation giant specializing in helicopters, have inked an agreement that will enable Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to produce Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk utility and transport helicopters under license. Tusas Engine Industries (TEI), another Turkish vendor, will produce the S-70’s GE T700 turboshaft engines under license as well.

Turkey was also able to secure export licenses for the TAI S-70 Black Hawk – designated T-70. Defense News learned from an anonymous TAI official that TAI expects to secure over $1 billion U.S. in export sales. In fact, that same official claimed that Turkey was already marketing the T-70 to a number of countries with whom Ankara has friendly relations.

Although the present contract covers 109 T-70s, Turkish officials believe that at least 300 helicopters could be built for domestic military and civil service requirements. If prospective exports come to fruition, T-70 production could reach 600 aircraft.

Comment and Analysis

In 2014, Ankara selected Sikorsky and the S-70 Black Hawk for the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP). As part of the TUHP, Sikorsky would transfer the necessary technology to enable the S-70 to be produced locally in Turkey. Under the $3.5 billion U.S. agreement, Turkey was able to acquire the capacity to produce the S-70’s airframe and engines under license.

Besides TAI and TEI, Turkey’s electronics giant Aselsan will also be involved in the TUHP, it will provide the T-70’s avionics suite. Alp Aviation will produce the gearbox and other dynamic mechanical components.

At the time, AugustaWestland (now Leonardo-Finmeccanica)’s AW149 was the S-70’s primary competitor. Turkey likely chose the S-70 on the basis that it was a clearly proven and widely adopted system, one with immense scale thanks to its extensive usage in the U.S. and many other countries, including Turkey. Of course, Turkey still wanted to pull the S-70 into its domestic supply channel, and it has secured a lot.

Turkey will manufacture the S-70 Black Hawk’s airframe, engine, avionics and even dynamic components domestically, but while Turkey will be well set in terms of its domestic requirements, what about export? Well, Turkey secured export licenses too. In fact, in 2014 Sikorsky itself remarked that Turkey could be a means to secure sales from countries that do not have the strongest ties with the U.S.

The Turkish government believes it could potentially export 300 T-70s, and in the lead-up of finalizing its deal with Sikorsky, Turkey was reportedly speaking to ‘friendly countries’ about the T-70. If we could extrapolate based on the potential clientele for the TAI T-129, those countries could include Pakistan, Jordan and Malaysia. Interestingly, the Pakistani government selected the Leonardo-Finmeccanica AW139 over the S-70 for use in search and rescue operations, but the T-70 could draw attention from Pakistan’s other service arms (military and civil). Turkey’s engagement with the market will be interesting to watch.

Finally, TAI will also be integrated into Sikorsky’s global supply chain. In other words, Sikorsky Black Hawk orders could be sourced from Turkey, not just in the form of aircraft, but spare parts as well.

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