In 2011, the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program picked Sikorsky to continue providing its S-70 Black Hawk & Seahawk helicopters over the next 10 years. Turkey’s attack helicopter program wasn’t exactly a model procurement approach, and it should be no surprise that its TUHP contract would also come years after the initially-promised date.
The contract was finalized in February 2014, and its impact will be far-reaching. These “T-70” helicopters will equip every branch of Turkey’s armed forces, and some civilian organizations. As an added bonus, Turkish Aerospace Industries’ experience manufacturing components and assembling the S-70s will help them pursue a new light helicopter design of their own…
The Competitors & The Deal
The TUHP competition began much more modestly in 2005, as a $700 million deal for around 52 helicopters. As helicopter demands on Turkey’s forces rose, the program both expanded its numbers and broadened its client base within Turkey. The expected competitors also changed rather quickly, moving from Sikorsky’s H-60 family and NHI’s NH90 to a straight shootout between Sikorsky’s new S-70i project, and AgustaWestland’s new AW149.
The program originally involved up to 121 “T-70” S-70i derivatives, and was said to be worth be worth around $3.5 billion in total once the contracts are finalized. That price held steady, and the February 2014 contract appears to involve 109 helicopters, with avionics suites that will be produced by Turkey’s Aselsan. Additional industrial arrangements to serve as S-70i suppliers could see up to 600 helicopters assembled in Turkey over a period of 30 years.
The exact force breakdown hasn’t been specified, but over the next 10 years, new T-70s will be fielded to every branch of the Turkish armed forces and beyond. Earlier reports toued the breakdown as follows:
Army. The Army already operates about 106 earlier model S-70s, and earlier reports have them receiving about 20 T-70s. That order may even expand over time, as existing machines need to be replaced.
Turkish Special Forces. Some reports placed their order at 11 machines. Special Forces aircraft add a range of equipment for refueling, night flying, etc. – vid. the HH-60/MH-60 Pave Hawks operated by US SOCOM and South Korea.
Navy. They ordered 12-17 S-70Bs back in 2006, giving them 19-24 machines, and are reportedly in line to receive another 6 T-70s. No word yet on whether they’ll be utility-only T-70s, or have specialized equipment for maritime detection and combat. Turkey’s rival Greece also flies S-70Bs.
TuAF. The Air Force flies about 80 old Bell UH-1 Hueys, and 20 larger Eurocopter AS532 Super Pumas; they are reportedly slated to receive just 6 T-70s.
Parapublic. The remaining T-70s are expected to go to other ministries.
Some reports have the Turkish Jandarma ordering up to 30 T-70s. The Jandarma currently operates 28 older S-70As, and the T-70s would be simple replacements. Turkey’s Gendarmie is technically a branch of the armed forces, but its commander reports to the Ministry of the Interior.
Other T-70s will reportedly go to the Turkish National Police, who fall under the General Directorate of Security.
The most unusual machines in the set will be 20 T-70 Firehawks, modified with special tanks and other equipment for firefighting. They’ll go to the Environment & Forest ministry, who faces the same wildfire challenges common to other Mediterranean climate jurisdictions like Greece. Or California, for that matter.
AgustaWestland stated in its post-loss release that TUHP had been a Black Hawk program from the beginning. There is some truth to that. Sikorsky’s H-60 family machines equip several branches of the Turkish armed forces, and probably had front-runner status from the get-go.
Having said that, the S-70 wasn’t without worthy competitors.
Initial expectations were that the European NH Industries consortium might offer its larger NH90 for the TUHP, as a pricier offering with more advanced features, plus the promise of integration into the European helicopter industry. Slipping delivery dates among existing customers, and other teething issues, seem to have eliminated the NH90.
By 2008, there were 2 serious candidates: Sikorsky, and the British/Italian firm AgustaWestland. Sikorsky eventually settled on the S-70 International. It was developed with the intent of capitalizing on opportunities like Turkey’s, while offshoring some production to cheaper jurisdictions.
AgustaWestland has strong relationships in Turkey, having won the attack helicopter competition by moving future A129 Mangusta production from Italy. For TUHP, they were bidding a new design called the AW149, an enlarged version of the firm’s popular AW139 medium twin helicopter. Their offering promised the same fast cruising speed and high horsepower to weight ratio, a larger interior volume than the H-60 family, and multirole capability that included armed options and search-and-rescue variants. Like the T129, Turkey would become a partner in the design and a key locus of production, with full export rights.
The nearby Middle Eastern market has obvious attractions. AgustaWestland clearly hoped that a TUHP 149 win would build momentum, not to mention a future regional sales network. That didn’t happen.
Having placed major orders for T129 attack helicopters with AgustaWestland and now Sikorsky’s T-70 for utility/armed utility roles, Turkey will soon seek light utility helicopters. Instead of looking to AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter, and others, Turkey plans to design and build its own through TAI, using some of the expertise and experience gained from the TUHP program.
Contracts & Key Events
March 2/17: Sikorsky has delivered an S-70i Black Hawk helicopter to be used as a prototype for the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP). The delivery coincides with the signing of a “cooperation agreement” with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), aimed at enhancing business between the two companies in the next 10 years. Sikorsky is collaborating with Turkish industry on developing its new T-70 utility helicopter, and later into Turkish-built Black Hawks, in a program that is worth approximately $3.5 billion. The delivered Black Hawk will now be equipped with a new avionics suite jointly developed with Sikorsky and TAI, with work to be carried out by Turkish arms manufacturer Aselsan. Ankara is initially planning to produce 109 T-70s but this could later reach a production total of 300 if the helicopter is rolled out to meet future Turkish requirements.
2010 – 2014
Feb 21/14: Contract. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan mentions that they’ve signed the T-70 contract, as a casual off-the-cuff remark at a different event:
“We signed another signature today. We took a $3.5 billion step today regarding general purpose helicopters…”
The exact force breakdown isn’t mentioned. A March 4/14 Sikorsky release confirms an agreement for 109 T-70 helicopters, with TAI performing final assembly, and Aselsan developing and installing its own cockpit avionics.
Industrial offset arrangements involve a minimum of 109 S-70i orders that will be assembled over the next 30 years, with accompanying transfers of some manufacturing technologies. When Turkish T-70 orders and S-70i exports are added together, total helicopters produced could climb as high as 600. This is a deliberate business strategy on Sikorsky’s part: the “i” in S-70i stands for “international,” and Sikorsky also has an S-70i assembly site in Poland at its PZL Mielec subsidiary. That may help Sikorsky with costs, and offer industrial flexibility, but the helicopters produced are still subject to American ITAR weapon export laws. Sources: Sikorsky, “Sikorsky and Turkey Sign Black Hawk Helicopter Licensing and Manufacturing Agreements” | Reuters, “Turkish PM Erdogan says $3.5 bln Sikorsky helicopter deal signed” | Haberler, “Turkey Signs Agreement Of Utility Helicopter With Sikorsky”.
Feb 18/14: Industrial. Turkey’s SSM procurement agency announces the launch of a Rotor Technology Center (DKTM) to perform R&D, and train Turkish personnel in this area of aerospace technology. It’s part of a June 2013 contract with TAI to create the country’s first indigenous helicopter, a 5-tonne twin-engine replacement for Turkey’s existing UH-1 Huey fleet. The S-70i is a 10-tonne helicopter, so there’s no overt conflict. What Hurriyet does say is that:
“Officials have said Turkey intends to use know-how and technology transfers it would earn from a Sikorsky-led utility helicopter program.”
The paper confirms that the S-70i/TUHP deal remains unsigned. Sources: Turkish SSM, “Helicopter Development Program” | Hurriyet Daily News, “Turkey gears up efforts for indigenous rotor production”.
May 8/13: Update. A release from Turkey’s SSM says that they intend to finalize contract negotiations, and offers a snapshot of current progress:
“Estimated at $3.5 billion, the total program value to Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), as the prime contractor, is inclusive of work to be performed by Sikorsky and other program partners. Under the license of Sikorsky the aircraft component such as blade, cabin, cockpit will be manufactured and aircraft will be assembled in Turkey by TAI. In the scope of the program; Avionic suit will be designed by Aselsan, engine will be manufactured by TEI under the license of GE and landing gear and transmission will be manufactured by ALP Aviation which specializes in BLACK HAWK helicopter transmission system.”
Sources: Turkish SSM, “SSM and Sikorsky in near to Finalize Negotiations to Build T-70i BLACK HAWK Helicopters in Turkey”.
Dec 5/12: Delays. Turkey’s Hurriyet confirms that the T-70 contract remains unsigned. What they can’t say, is why. Turkey has a poor record of closing defense deals, and several manufacturers have won competitions, only to end up walking away from the negotiating table due to unrealistic Turkish demands. The article provides a hint of that, as some of the items being asked for are either sensitive, not easy to transfer, or require 3rd party approval from other contractors of the government:
“Some important components of the helicopters, such as body, engine, avionic systems and task software, will be produced in Turkey as TAI [Akinci-based Turkish Aerospace Industries] will be the main contractor,’ then-Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said [when the S-70 was picked]. The Eskisehir-based Alp Havacilik is also expected to become a major Turkish partner.”
April 22/11: Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) picks Sikorsky’s S-70i Black Hawk as the basis for its Turkish Utility Helicopter contract, beating AgustaWestland’s AW149/TUHP-149. The estimated $3.5 billion deal would provide 109 “T-70” machines + 12 options over the next 10years. Once a deal is finalized, it will feature Turkish Aerospace Industries as the prime contractor, with Sikorsky and other Turkish firms providing items for final assembly. The T-70s will equip all branches of the Turkish armed forces.
As part of the industrial benefits package, Sikorsky will invest in expanding its Alp Aviaiton joint venture’s dynamic components manufacturing capability. Turkey is also being drawn into the S-70i supply chain, including the possible sale of Turkish assembled aircraft to future Sikorsky international customers. The expected 10-year contract also would call for aftermarket support, including training and maintenance. Turkey already flies UH-60/S-70 helicopters in Army and Naval roles, so that just builds on existing arrangements.
AgustaWestland had this to say:
“AgustaWestland is disappointed by the Turkish decision… TUHP was conceived from the very 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… unprecedented level of cooperation with Turkish industry, would have allowed them to access new levels of know-how… Unfortunately Turkey’s decision was to opt for an old design of helicopter instead of leveraging on the fruitful collaboration and advantages achieved with the T129… 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… AgustaWestland is committed to carrying on with the development of the AW149… with over 8000 ageing same-class helicopters expected to be replaced in the next 35 years.”
S-70i Black Hawk picked
April 12/11: Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) was supposed to make a decision re: the TUHP competition. It’s delayed, again. Source.
March 22/11: Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) was supposed to make a decision re: the TUHP competition. It’s delayed, again. Source.
Jan 17/11: Hurriyet Daily News reports that a “senior official from Sikorsky Aircraft” has said that over the next 20 years, Sikorsky would guarantee $1 billion of repair and maintenance work on S-70i helicopters belonging to 3rd countries.
Depending on how they structure their cooperation, likely refurbishment work from existing middle eastern UH-60/S-70 clients might even meet that total by itself. TAI is already something of an aerospace maintenance and upgrade center for other Islamic countries.
2005 – 2010
July 1/10: First flight of Sikorsky’s S-70i, which was built at the firm’s PZL Mielec subsidiary in Poland. The S-70 is an export variant of the firm’s UH/SH-60 hewlicopters, and the new S-70i is part of the company’s effort to take advantage of global supply chain opportunities. The firm’s own pages descriube it as a helicopter “designed with the specific features and capabilities most requested by international military customers, at an affordable price.” Sikorsky Vice President of International Military Programs, Michael Ambrose:
“As Sikorsky Aircraft continues to grow internationally, we recognize the significance of this new integration of manufacturing and supply chain activities as a major leap forward for our company… The S-70i BLACK HAWK helicopter brings together new technologies, new manufacturing capabilities, and a new design…”
Nov 13/09: 1st flight of the AW149 at AgustaWestland’s Vergiate, Italy plant. The 2nd prototype will fly in the final configuration, incorporating twin 2000 shp class GE CT7-2E1 turbines, and an all new transmission system. AgustaWestland.
Sept 11/09: Reporting from Britain’s DSEi 2009 exibition, Jane’s covers AgustaWestland’s bid to make its AW149 the TUHP winner. It also sizes the initial buy of 109 helicopters: 69 for the military, 20 civilian firefighters and 20 Gendarmie.
Aug 1/09: Designated TUHP main contractor TAI issues an RFP to AgustaWestland and Sikorsky. Source.
April 27/09: AgustaWestland formally unveils a full-scale mock-up of its AW149 armed utility helicopter at the IDEF exhibition in Istanbul, Turkey. The 8.1t AW149 twin is touted as carrying up to 18 equipped troops, at a maximum cruise speed of 165kt/ 295km/h.
At this point, a decision on the TUHP competition for up to 115 utility helicopters is expected as early as June 2009. Flight International.
April 9/09: Turkey’s TUHP competition has increased its cross-service requirement from 52 (2005), to 78, to 115 aircraft. The contract has become a battle between the AW149 and H-60 family, and the selected helicopter will be produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries, who expects to handle all manufacturing beyond the 78th aircraft. Arabian Aerospace | Flight International.
Jan 31/08: Bidder Evaluation Document (BED) issued by Turkish SSM to AgustaWestland and Sikorsky (SAC). TAI is designated as main contractor. Sources: Turkish SSM.
Aug 9/05: Turkey’s Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM) formally opens an estimated $700 million international competition for 32 military helicopters and 20 fire fighters. The purchase will be administered by SSM as a single package. The lion’s share of the military shopping bag will go to the Army with 20 helicopters, and the Air Force and the Navy will receive 6 each. Turkish Daily News.
* Turkish SSM – Turkish Utility Helicopter Project
* Sikorsky – S-70i
* AgustaWestland – AW149
* DID – Turkey Finally Lands Its Attack Helicopters. The AgustaWestland A129i, now the “T-129”, is building up Turkey’s domestic production capacity.
* DID (Nov 10/06) – Turkey Finalizes Lot 2 Order for 17 S-70B Seahawks. The process of getting there wasn’t easy. The new S-70Bs will join the Turkish Navy’s existing 7 machines. The rival Hellenic Navy also operates the S-70B.
* Sikorsky (March 15/04) – LA County to Buy a Third FIREHAWK Helicopter. the Los Angeles area has a similar climate, and similar problems with wildfires.