Turkish police set to buy light helicopters

Turkey’s Police Department is planning to purchase up to 15 light helicopters to bolster the force’s capabilities amid preparations to provide the police with a greater role in fighting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

Three Western companies, Italy’s AgustaWestland, the United States’ Bell Helicopter Textron and Eurocopter Deutschland – the European Eurocopter’s German arm – will compete in the bid tendered by the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Turkey’s defense procurement agency.

The current tender calls for the construction of a first batch of between 10 and 15 light helicopters but the bid winner is expected to manufacture more light helicopters in follow-up batches for the Turkish police and to cooperate in the production with the Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI, Turkey’s state-owned aerospace company.

The purchase of the first batch of light helicopters is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars. The Police Department’s present helicopter fleet is made up of mainly U.S.-made MD600 light helicopters, which are becoming old and increasingly difficult to operate.

The new light helicopters should better perform police tasks, including tracking suspected criminals and intervening in incidents that could erupt during mass demonstrations, industry sources said.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee, Turkey’s highest decision-making authority, which is chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is expected to select the bid winner in the near future.

In recent months the PKK has intensified militant attacks in large cities, where maintaining security falls under the responsibility of the police. “The new light helicopters will greatly boost the Police Department’s capabilities in all fields of police operations,” said one procurement official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Next year Turkey also plans to launch a multibillion-dollar program to design, develop and manufacture the country’s new military and civilian light utility helicopter – likely with a foreign partner. TAI will lead that program, and U.S. Sikorsky Aircraft, a prominent helicopter maker, has already announced that it is interested in taking part in the program.



Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Ümit Enginsoy