U.S., Italy battle for Turkish helo deal

AgustaWestland's AW-149 is competeing against Sikorsky's T-70, based on the proven UH-60 Black Hawk platform already used by the Turkish Armed Forces.

Italian and U.S. companies are battling for a multibillion-dollar contract to outfit Turkey with next-generation military helicopters.

America’s Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and AgustaWestland, owned by Italy’s Finmeccanica, are the final contenders to deliver 109 helicopters for an estimated $4 billion. The number of follow-up orders could eventually rise to 300 and increase the price tag to more than $10 billion, Ankara has said.

The winner of the high-profile contract will be announced in four to six weeks, Defensenews.com reports, citing statements from top industry and government officials made this week.

“There will be one last round of talks with Sikorsky and AgustaWestland in the next few weeks, in which the two companies will be asked to provide their best and final offers,” Defensenews.com quoted an unnamed Turkish procurement official as saying.

An unnamed industry official added the process was expected to “between four and six weeks.”

A decision was expected by late last year and then delayed to March because of Turkish demands for better prices and more benefits for the Turkish domestic defense industry.

It will be made by a high-profile defense procurement committee whose members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul and other high-ranking military officials.

Sikorsky is throwing its T-70 in the race, a helicopter based on its successful UH-60 Black Hawk chopper. Turkey has several Black Hawks in operation and they have performed in NATO missions in Afghanistan and the Balkans and have been used to hunt Kurdish insurgents along the Iraqi border.

The T-70′s competitor is the AgustaWestland AW149, a newly developed helicopter based on but larger than the successful AW139 model.

The company says on its Web site that the twin-engine AW149, suited for combat, medical evacuation and surveillance missions, “answers a growing demand for the next generation, affordable, multi-purpose medium class helicopter, for military and government agencies.”

Both companies have offered benefits to strengthen their respective bids. It’s already decided that several Turkish companies including Turkish Aerospace Industries will be involved in assembling the helicopters.

“The two offers will be judged in accordance with their final prices and the benefits and cooperation package for the Turkish industry involved in the program,” the procurement official was quoted as saying by Defensenews.com.

With headquarters in Stratford, Conn., Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. is a U.S. maker of helicopters, drones and airplanes. It employs around 13,000 people.

AgustaWestland is a helicopter company owned by Italy’s Finmeccanica that employs around 9,000 people.