The Turkish government has signed a contract with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for development of the country's first national next-generation light utility helicopter.
Signed by the undersecretary for defence industries as part of the indigenous helicopter project, launched in June 2010, the contract covers all three phases of the development programme, Defense News reports.
An unnamed senior procurement official, familiar with the programme, was quoted by the news agency as saying that the project aims to produce a helicopter that is completely designed by local engineers, using customised sub-systems that can compete with other foreign developments in terms of performance and costs.
''The first national helicopter will be sold to the Turkish market and then to international buyers,'' the official said.
Selected as the indigenous helicopter programme prime contractor in June 2010, TAI had submitted its proposal comprising of a twin-engine light helicopter in October 2012.
Primarily designed to replace Turkish Army's ageing Bell UH-1H Iroquois fleet, the helicopter is also expected to address the service's helicopter training requirements.
In addition, a civilian variant of the helicopter will be developed for the commercial market.
Meanwhile, a TAI official was also quoted by the news agency as saying that the final sales number of the helicopters could reach around 1,200, which includes over 800 units for the army and the remaining for foreign customers.
The company will apply their experience from a Sikorsky-led T-70 Black Hawk utility helicopter development programme to the project, the official added.
Initial test flighting of the first helicopter is expected to take place within the next five years.