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Friday, October 28, 2011

Obama wants to sell helicopters from US arsenal to Turkey

Turkey lost three helicopters in action against the Kurdish PKK last month. They really, really want to replace them. Quickly. And the Obama administration is trying to accommodate them by selling them helicopters from the existing US arsenal. There's just one small problem: Congress is holding up the deal because of Turkey's behavior toward Israel.
Under the administration's plan, the Marines would get two new, late-model Textron Inc Bell AH-1Z SuperCobras in exchange for the three AH-1W aircraft that would be transferred to Ankara from current inventory, a congressional official said.

The officials declined to be identified because of the matter's sensitivity and because they were not authorized to speak on the record. The idea to take weapons from the U.S. arsenal was rare, they said.

The proposal has been held up amid lawmakers' questions about increasingly distant relations between Muslim-majority Turkey and Israel, a key U.S. ally, among other matters.

The AH-1W has sold previously for about $10 million. Turkey bought 10 of them in the 1990s. The larger, twin-engine AH-IZ may sell for about $30 million, according to industry sources.

Under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, the executive branch must provide 15 days' formal notice to Congress before going ahead with significant arms transfers to a NATO partner. It was not immediately clear when such notice might take place, with informal congressional consultations continuing.
The source of the Z helicopters is not clear to me. I think it means that Congress would allow the Marines to use the money received from Turkey to purchase the Z helicopters.

Turkey's Daily Hurriyet is also covering this story. Here are a couple of key points from their coverage (emphasis added).
The three gunships to be given to Turkey would be new, the U.S. official said. The U.S. rejected earlier Turkish requests for the gunships, saying its Marine Corps had around 170 AH-1Ws and was using all of them in the Afghanistan war.

Turkey acquired 10 AH-1W Super Cobras from the U.S. in the 1990s and has been using them effectively against the PKK. But, following a few crashes, it only has six operational choppers now and Ankara has been asking Washington to transfer a few more.

Turkey has more than 20 earlier models of the Cobra family, all produced by Bell Helicopter Textron. These earlier attack helicopters, however, have single engines and their performances are very limited compared to those of the AH-1Ws.

Bell Helicopter Textron began production of the AH-1Z, the latest member of the Cobra family, in recent years and delivered the first batch to the U.S. Marine Corps in January. Turkey’s efforts to obtain more attack helicopters have been continuing since the late 1990s. Bell Helicopter Textron won Turkey’s first tender with the AH-1Z in 2002, but the U.S. company and the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), Turkey’s procurement agency, were unable to agree on the gunship’s features and price for three years.

As a result, SSM cancelled tender contracts and opened a new bidding process, which was boycotted by U.S. manufacturers. Eventually, Turkey selected the Italian AgustaWestland’s T-129, a Turkish version of the A-129 Mangusta International, over South Africa’s Denel, maker of the AH-2 Rooivalk.

Presently, AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries, its Turkish partner, are manufacturing a total of 59 T-129s, worth billions of dollars, for the Turkish Army. The first deliveries are scheduled for late next year while the gunship is expected to enter service in the Turkish Army in 2013.


Defense analysts suggest that to be useful in the fight against the PKK, the planned three AH-1W Super Cobras need to enter service by the beginning of next summer. Each year, PKK-related fighting worsens by the summer and dies down in November because of winter conditions.

The Super Cobra matter is another reason why the relations between Turkey and Israel should be warm. Otherwise, any pro-Israeli senator may kill it,” said one Turkish defense analyst.

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At 11:47 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Carl.
If i'm not mistaking than something aint right with this story:
Reuters mentions a cost price of $10 Million , three of them would make $30 million, so why is Hurriyet talking about $75 Million?Unless different or more choppers are to be sold?


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