IANKARA – Turkey will launch urgent talks to buy nine A129 Mangusta
attack helicopters from the Italian-British manufacturer AgustaWestland
to fight separatist Kurds operating in an area near the country’s
borders with Iraq and Iran, a key Turkish official announced late
“In an effort to meet the urgent needs of the Turkish Land Forces
Command and as part of the ongoing attack helicopter program,
negotiations for the procurement of an additional nine attack
helicopters will be launched with TUSAS,” Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul
told reporters after a meeting of the Defense Industry Executive
Committee, Turkey’s highest decision-making body on procurement.
TUSAS is the Turkish name for the Turkish Aerospace Industries, the
prime contractor in Ankara’s program to jointly manufacture at least 50
attack helicopters with AgustaWestland. The nine helicopters will come
in addition to the 50 choppers to be jointly manufactured. The
additional nine gunships to be procured are A129 Mangustas, a senior
procurement official said.
The Defense Industry Executive
Committee’s members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Gonul,
Gen. Ilker Basbug, chief of the General Staff, and Murad Bayar, head of
Turkey’s procurement agency. .
Bayar’s office, the
Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, and AgustaWestland signed a
multibillion-dollar contract in 2008 for joint production of 50 T129s,
a Turkish version of the A129.
The Kurdish separatist group, the
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has killed scores of soldiers since it
stepped up attacks on Turkish targets in the spring.
Army operates six AH-1W Super Cobras and more than 20 earlier model
Cobra helicopters, and military officials in recent years have voiced
an urgent need for additional gunships to fight the PKK.
T129s are expected to become operational by 2014. The latest
announcement for additional gunships represents a stopgap solution
until the first deliveries.