Procurement: No Express Service For Turkey


April 2,2008: Three months ago Turkey asked the United States for another dozen AH-1W helicopter gunships. The Turks wanted the gunships real fast. Like now. Turkey is heavily involved in a campaign along the Iraqi border, against Kurdish PKK separatists. It has nine AH-1Ws, and they are being worked hard. At first the U.S. indicated that this could be done. But then the U.S. Marine Corps, the major American user of the AH-1W, indicated that it was using its choppers heavily, refurbishing others, and had none to spare.

The seven ton AH-1W is an upgrade of the Vietnam era AH-1. The new model was configured for naval use, and has two engines and protection against sea water corrosion. The major user of the AH-1W, the U.S. Marine Corps, is in the process of doing a major upgrade on its AH-1T/Ws. Most of these aircraft were originally manufactured in the 1970's, with some 44 AH-1W models built in the 1980's. The goal of this program is not only to deliver a much more capable aircraft, but also to have an 84 percent commonality of parts between the two, thus greatly reducing maintenance costs. The goal is to remanufacture 180 AH-1T/W attack helos into AH-1Z Vipers models. This upgrade will give the aircraft a new 4 bladed composite rotor system, transmission, strengthened structural components, and modern digital cockpit avionics. The first ones will enter service next year.

Taiwan is the other major user of the AH-1W, having bought 63 of them. The U.S. Marine Corps could deliver a dozen AH-1Ws to Turkey on short notice, if the United States believed it is worth the effort to be nice to Turkey. In 2003, Turkey refused to allow American forces to advance from Turkey into Iraq, and has never been happy with U.S. (and British) support of autonomous Kurds in northern Iraq. The Turks know all this, and were hoping that the U.S. would let bygones be bygones. Apparently, the U.S. saw supplying these AH-1Ws as a potential problem with Iraq, which is not happy with the little war on its Turkish border. The additional helicopters would simply enable the Turks to kill more Iraqis (even if they are Kurdish PKK terrorists.)


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