For the better part of five years AgustaWestland (AW) had been counting on Turkey to be a major customer for the military variant of its AW139 medium twin, the AW149, for the Turkish utility helicopter program (TUHP). However, earlier this spring, Turkey surprised AW by partnering with Sikorsky on the program, deciding to build as many as 109 T-70 derivatives of the S-70 Black Hawk under an agreement with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in a deal worth $3.5 billion and potentially much more, over the next decade. On top of the TUHP order, the agreement calls for up to 500 more T-70s to be built over the period for both Turkish domestic consumption and the export market. The T-70s will be laden with parts, including dynamic components, manufactured from a variety of companies within Turkey and have final assembly at TAI.
AW, which currently subcontracts major airframe subassemblies on the popular civilian AW139 and the T-129 attack helicopter with TAI, was stunned by the TUHP decision and wasted little time in issuing a strong public denouncement of the agreement with Sikorsky. AW basically claimed the game was rigged and that Turkey had forgone a major opportunity for economic development. “The TUHP was conceived from the beginning as a Black Hawk acquisition project…AgustaWestland, however, offered Turkey a product partnership to co-develop a new generation helicopter, the AW149, to be co-produced and sold domestically and in the international market.”
Ugo Rossini, AW vice president for Europe, noted, “Turkey’s decision was to opt for an old design of helicopter instead of leveraging on the fruitful collaboration and advantages achieved with the T-129 program. Turkey’s aerospace industry has lost a unique opportunity to become a major player in the helicopter industry through the co-development of a new-generation helicopter.” Rossini said despite the setback, AW is committed to driving the AW149 program forward.
The AW149 is designed to carry up to 15 troops, have a cruise speed of 160 knots, a range of up to 500 nm with 12 troops and two pilots, satisfy the 6,000 feet/95 degree F high/hot standard, and can be equipped with a wide variety of armaments for multi-mission combat roles.
For its part, Sikorsky said the award followed a “longstanding tradition of cooperation” between the company and Turkish industry. Mick Maurer, president of Sikorsky Military Systems, said the T-70 would be based on the S-70i variant of the Black Hawk currently manufactured in Poland at PZL Mielec. o