Murphy's Law: Turkey And The Long Con


June 18, 2010: Turkey is in desperate need of nine Mangusta helicopter gunships, and is trying to get them from the Italian manufacturer as quickly as possible. Currently, Turkey relies on a fleet of about two dozen elderly American AH-1 gunships, which are being worn out because of intense operations against Kurdish separatists along the Iraq border.

This is all a problem of Turkey's own making. Three years ago, after over a decade of evaluating, negotiating, haggling and delays, Turkey decided to buy 50 A129 Mangusta (Mongoose) helicopter gunships, for about $32 million each, with an option to buy 40 more later. That deal then fell apart, and was recently resurrected as a plan whereby at least 50 A129s would be build in Turkey (along with some technology transfer.)

The latest version of the Italian A129 is roughly comparable to the upgraded versions of the U.S. AH-1 (especially the AH-1 SuperCobra). The 4.6 ton A-129 was the first helicopter gunship designed and built in Western Europe, and was introduced in the 1980s. While it has been upgraded frequently, the only customer so far has been Italy, which bought 60 of them. The manufacturer, Augusta/Westland, has been desperate to get an export customer.

Given the delays in selecting a supplier, who was buying, and who was selected, there were probably some bribes involved once the Turks finally selected the A129. Augusta was the only manufacturer to stick with the baffling Turkish procurement process, and was finally forced to basically turn over manufacture of the A129 to the Turks, to get the sale. But after about fifteen years of this procurement madness, the Turks find themselves in desperate need of some new gunships, and are seeking help from Augusta to bail them out.





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