ANKARA Ñ Turkey has canceled a series of major military projects
worth billions of dollars in a move that could strain relations with the
In a surprise move, Turkey's Defense Ministry canceled tenders for the
procurement of attack helicopters, unmanned air vehicles and main battle
tanks. The projects were estimated at being worth more than $7 billion.
"New requests for proposals, with an emphasis on new procurement models
based on higher local industrialization, will be issued," a statement by the
Executive Committee of the Turkish Defense Industries Undersecretariat said
on May 14.
The most far-reaching move was the Defense Ministry's decision to cancel
the multi-billion dollar tender to coproduce attack helicopters. The
decision ended more than two years of negotiations between Turkey and the
United States for the transfer of mission computer technology and helicopter
Turkey's Defense Ministry failed to draft a contract with the
frontrunner in the tender, the U.S. firm Bell Textron. Bell Textron was
faced by an Israeli-Russian consortium composed of Kamov and Israel Aircraft
The defense committee was chaired by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and
included Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul and
Turkish Defense Industry Undersecretary Murat Bayar. Officials said Turkish
military and political leaders agreed that Ankara would launch a system-wide
review of major military projects that would stress requirements and the
benefits for Turkey's defense industry.
Turkey had sought to coproduce 50 attack helicopters. The Bell Textron
offer was said to have been about $2.5 billion and the IAI-Kamov offer about
Bell-Textron expressed disappointment with the Turkish cancellation of
the program. The Turkish move was also expected to upset U.S. defense
officials who had been promised in 2003 that Ankara would soon launch the
In late 2003, Bayar relayed his recommendation for the helicopter
coproduction project in a memorandum to the military's General Staff.
Officials said Bayar had recommended that neither the U.S. frontrunner, Bell
Textron, with its AH-1Z King Cobra, nor the IAI-Kamov bid of the Ka-50-2 be
In the memo, Bayar questioned Kamov as a reliable supplier, officials
said. They said Bayar also expressed doubt whether Kamov could meet
deadlines and asserted that the company did not have enough Ka-50-2s for
Bayar opposed the King Cobra on grounds that the United States has
refused to transfer critical technologies, officials said. The U.S.
technologies denied to Turkey were said to have included the software for
the mission computer.
The Turkish committee also decided to cancel existing tenders for
purchase of UAVs. Turkey had invited companies to bid on the production of a
tactical UAV and a strategic UAV.
The U.S.-based General Atomics as well as Israel's Elbit Systems had
been competing for the $1 billion UAV deal. Officials said the UAV project
would be revived.
Ankara also formally canceled a project for the production of 1,000 main
battle tanks. That project, estimated at $4 billion, was suspended in 2001
during Turkey's fiscal crisis and never revived.
In its statement, the committee said the projects were canceled because
they could not be completed under existing models. The committee did not say
whether another tender would be issued.
The committee also decided to form new procurement models that would be
based on domestic production, original design as well as maximum use of
national capabilities. The panel decided that Turkey's military would meet
its requirements through these models and provide facilities for local and
foreign joint ventures.