Turkey’s T625 Utility Helicopter Is Named Gökbey

 - December 14, 2018, 9:43 AM
A T625 mock-up was on display during the naming ceremony.

The new Turkish Aerospace T625 helicopter is to be named Gökbey, which could be translated as “Sky Lord," Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealed on December 12. Erdogan made the announcement in front of a full-scale mock-up of the aircraft during the Turkish Defense Industry Summit at the Beştepe presidential palace complex in Ankara.

The T625 program was formally launched in June 2013 when Turkish Aerospace and the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) signed the initial contract. The new helicopter, then known as the Özgün (Original) was intended to be an all-Turkish, six-tonne, twin-engine helicopter with a five-blade main rotor (this was the logic behind the T625 designation). It was designed to meet a range of military, paramilitary, and civilian requirements. All critical systems, including the transmission, rotors, landing gear, and aerostructures, have been designed and built by Turkish Aerospace. The T625 features a locally developed four-axis dual-redundant automatic flight control system and uses an Aselsan glass cockpit, with locally sourced displays and avionics systems.

The first prototype made its first flight on September 6, 2018, at Turkish Aerospace’s facilities in Ankara, powered by a pair of 1,370-shp Rolls-Royce/Honeywell Light Helicopter Turbine Engine Company (LHTEC) CTS800 turboshaft engines. They were chosen for commonality with the company’s T129 ATAK attack helicopter but are due to be replaced by an indigenous powerplant. This will comprise a pair of 1,370-shp TS1400 engines, which are being developed by Tusaş Engine Industries (TEI), a joint venture partnership teaming Turkish Aerospace and GE Aviation.

In June 2018, the SSM announced that the prototype of the core TS1400 engine, with the ignition and combustion chamber, had been ignited for the first time. The full engine is planned to be tested on the T625 from 2021, with serial production planned to begin in 2024 following an eight-year development program.

Although no launch customer has been announced, the Turkish ministry of health and the forestry and police services are all believed to be interested in the type, while the Turkish army has stated an intention to acquire the T625 to replace its 86-strong fleet of Bell UH-1Hs. Overall, Turkish Aerospace believes that there is a domestic market for around 300 T625s and also hopes that the aircraft will perform well on the export market. EASA certification is targeted for 2020 and full production is due to begin in 2021.

Some of the critical components of the T625, including the dynamic and transmission systems and perhaps the landing gear, will form the basis of a new attack helicopter, the ATAK-2. This new six-tonne military helicopter is being developed using some of the technology developed for the T129 ATAK but will have increased payload capacity, higher performance, and modern avionics systems. The use of all-Turkish systems and components is intended to give Turkey the greatest possible freedom in exporting the aircraft, without requiring the permission of any other nation.