U.S. helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft won a Turkish contract worth $3.5 billion (2.4 billion euros) on Thursday and the two will now fine tune the final elements of the deal, the defense minister said.
Turkey is expanding its helicopter fleet with attack and utility helicopters, which it uses in battles against autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels in the rugged southeast.
Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said it had been decided to put the finishing touches on the deal with Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., based in Stratford, Connecticut, for co-production of 109 utility helicopters plus an option for 12 additional helicopters.
Gonul said Turkey could later increase the order to up to 600 platforms. He announced the decision following a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and chief of the military, Gen. Isik Kosaner.
Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation of Hartford, Connecticut, won the tender over its competitor, AgustaWestland, a unit of Italian military contractor Finmeccanica.
Under the deal, Turkey would co-produce T-70 helicopter, the Turkish version of Sikorsky's S-70i, the newest Black Hawk variant, which is being produced for the international market.
"The utility helicopter which will be designed specifically for Turkey will have a full-mission weight of 10 tons and carry 18 troops," Gonul said. "After finalization of the contract, we aim to have the project started by the end of the year latest."
The platform will be used by Turkey's military, police and forestry ministry for various purposes, ranging from transportation of troops or patients to search and rescue missions and electronic warfare.
Turkey already operates several different types of utility helicopters, including S-70s and older U.S.-made UH-1 Hueys as well as French-designed AS-532 Cougars and Russian Mi-17s.
Gonul said the project is of crucial importance to mark the start of Turkey's production of utility helicopters at home. He did not say when the first delivery is expected.
Sikorsky says its S-70i Black Hawk helicopter incorporates the latest technology with advanced features such as a fully integrated digital cockpit with a dual digital automatic flight control system and coupled flight director and an active vibration control system that smooths the overall ride of the aircraft.