Turkey and United States have confirmed earlier agreements to let Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) build 109 TAI/Sikorsky T70 Black Hawk helicopters, the Turkish version of the S70i.
Both the US helicopter manufacturer and TAI have now activated the contractual agreements. The machines of the so-called Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP) will be produced over the next decade in Turkey. The Turks will even manufacture a 109 additional baseline S70i choppers to Sikorsky over the next 30 years, aimed for export markets in Southwest Asia, Central Asia and Africa.
Black Hawks to the forces
Of the 109 new Black Hawks to be rolling out of the factory in Turkish Ankara the coming decade the Gendarmerie (Jandarma Genel Komutanlığı, JGK) will get the most, with 30 helicopters. Each 20 T-70s will go to the Turkish Land Forces (Türk Kara Kuvvetleri, TKK), the General Directorate of Security (Emniyet Genel Müdürlüğü, EGM) to be flown by the National Police, and the Ministry of Forest and Water Management (Orman ve Su İşleri Bakanlığı, OSİB). The latter will be equipped for fire-fighting duties. The Special Forces Command (Özel Kuvvetler Komutanlığı, ÖKK) will get eleven, the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri, THK) six. Finally, a pair of T-70s will go the Gölbaşi command unit of the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT).
Co-develop the T70
Production at the new TAI assembly line will commence in 2018 with five kit aircraft shipped from the US. From assembly TAI will move forward to become a full production plant, including the local manufacturing of entire airframe structures and rotor blades. Alp Aviation, a Sikorsky joint venture, will precision-machine the dynamic components and flight controls and assemble landing gear and transmissions. Aselsan and Sikorsky will co-develop an enhanced digital cockpit known as the Integrated Modular Avionics System (IMAS); and Turkish Engine Industries (TEI) will build engines under license from General Electric (GE).
To facilitate the development and integration of the IMAS, Sikorsky will transfer to Aselsan a new S-70i helicopter to be utilized as the Prototype Turkish Utility Helicopter for the qualification of the new avionics system in 2019.
The first T70s are planned to be operational in 2021, with the final of 109 machines scheduled for delivery by 2026. The total program is worth 3.5 billion US dollars.
The government and defence services of Turkey already fly many older S-70 derivatives, with 106 with the Land Forces and 28 with the Gendarmerie. The Turkish Naval Forces (Türk Deniz Kuvvetleri, TDK) ordering 17 new S-70B Seahawks back in 2006 to complement the seven it already had.
A decade or so ago, the Turkish Air Force faced a challenge. Its pilots were trained using aircraft over 30 years old with analogue instruments prior to converting to modern fourth-generation platforms like the F-16. With the arrival of the even more advanced fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II in mind, something had to change. That change materialized as the T-38M Talon, the result of an upgrade program by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). Following delivery of the last of 68 revitalized T-38s last year, Turkish student pilots now get to know the new Talon.
The Turkish Air Force has been flying the modernized T-38M since delivery of the first aircraft in June 2012. The project was initiated in 2007 with a contract for the upgrade of 55 aircraft. An option on a further 13 aircraft was later exercised. The program included an major overhaul plus – more importantly – a new mission computer, multi-function cockpit displays, a head-up display in the front and hands on throttle and stick controls. The first five aircraft, including two prototypes and three production examples, were delivered by TAI after which the Turkish Air Force maintenance center at Eskisehir continued with the remaining airframes.
Originally donated by the dozens by the United States Air Force, the T-38 has been training Turkish pilots since the 1970s and in its new guise will continue to do so until well beyond 2020. Epicentre of it all is Çigli airbase, just north of the country’s third biggest city Izmir. Here, aircraft continuously taxi out, take off, fly overhead and make touch and goes before landing. With many dozens of sorties each day, this is without a doubt Turkey’s busiest airbase.
Base commander major general Kubilay Selçuk, a pilot with many hundreds of flight hours in the F-100 Super Sabre, F-104 Starfighter and F-16 Fighting Falcon: “Many things have changed in the past few years. We resurfaced the runways and taxiways, built new ramps with sun sheds and other facilities such as a simulator center. Our modernized T-38Ms, new KT-1Ts turboprop trainers and simulators enable us to train fighter pilots well into the future. Future fighter pilots will not be assets of a command center. They will be a vital part of that command center, collecting more and more information themselves and acting accordingly. We prepare them for that.”
Future pilots all spend a total of three months flying the SF260D, six months flying the KT-1T and another six months flying the T-38M or either the AS532 helicopter or CN235 transport aircraft depending on their next assigment. Advanced jet training in the T-38 includes instrument flying, formations of up to four aircraft, low level navigation and night flying. Every flight is planned on the computer and mission data are then downloaded into the T-38M’s mission computer. After the flight, mission data is uploaded back to the computer enabling very detailed debriefs.”
On their thirteenth T-38M sortie, students go solo. Unlike their counterparts in the US, Turkish students don’t fly supersonic in the Talon. This is reserved for experienced instructors performing check rides.
A unique training method links each student with his or her instructor pilot, says base commander Selçuk. Students all have different types of intelligence and methods in which they best absorb information. This could be visual intelligence, listening intelligence or emotional intelligence, for example. A survey before entering flight training links their specific learning style to an instructor with a similar teaching style. These adjustments and the commissioning of the new simulator center enables the students to acquire more information in a shorter time frame. For example, T-38 students now fly 69 real sorties instead of 81 in the past.
The demand for new fighter pilots is large and this is reflected in the number of instructors being assigned. Instructor pilots are accepted as first assignment instructor pilots (FAIP) and they are taken from operational units. Between 2000 and 2014, close to 500 instructor pilots were trained at Çigli airbase. A peak was reached in 2011 when 52 new instructors arrived, but currently around 30 new instructor pilots arrive each year.
A relatively new role to Çigli airbase and the T-38 is the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF). The role was taken over from 133 Filo (squadron) flying the F-5 at Konya airbase following the F-5’s retirement in 2013. The IFF phase consists of a single air intercept sortie, six basic fighter manoeuvre sorties and eight air-to-ground sorties over a nearby reserve airbase. Since the T-38 cannot carry any armament, all weapon deliveries are simulated. The aim of this phase is for students to learn how to employ their aircraft as a weapons systems, rather than ‘simply’ flying it. Completing this phase smoothens their conversion to the F-16.
In the US, the T-38 is the subject of the T-X program that looks for a replacement in the next decade or so. The Turkish Air Force expects to be able to fly the T-38M until around two years after the United States Air Force stops operating the Talon, meaning the aircraft could stay in service until at least 2030. The Turkish Air Foroce recently started first preparations for the selection of a new jet trainer aircraft. It should probably enter service in the second half of the next decade. All in all, plenty of Turkish Talon training time left.
The air situation in the skies in and near Turkey continues to boil. While the dust of the shoot down of a Russian Su-24 flying near or into Turkish airspace from Syria has not even settled yet, fighter jets of the Greek and Turkish Air Forces continue to clash with each other over the Aegean Sea.
While no weapons have been fired, the dogfights between jocks of both NATO countries were not really a friendly match. On Tuesday 29 December six Turkish fighter jets escorting two Airbus CN235 aircraft violated Greek air space nine times, according to the Greek Ministry of Defence. Ankara denies the aircraft did anything wrong.
Hellenic Air Force cat and mouse
The Hellenic Air Force engaged – likely with its F-16 aircraft – leading to a cat and mouse game often practiced by many of the world’s air forces and known from movies like the 1980s classic Top Gun. No weapons were fired, but with aggression from both sides things can easily spin out of control.
Turkish F-16D shot down
Military jets from Greece and Turkey have often met each other in and around a 4 mile zone which resulting from a long standing twist of the boundaries of the nation’s borders, the natural resources in the area and airspace around the many islands – Greek and Turkish – in the Aegean Sea. Only once, in 1996, a Turkish F-16D was reportedly shot down by a Hellenic Air Force jet – killing one of two Turkish crew members while the second was rescued by Greek military forces.
This December the hostilities flared up again after political accusations from Greece that Turkey violated Greek airspace. The countries were in the brink of war since the 1930s, even though both are supposed to be friends within the NATO military alliance.
Airbus delivered a significant number of A400M military transport aircraft to costumers in December, bringing to an end a year marked by the fatal crash of an A400M in Seville on 9 May. The program seems to have overcome the tragedy however.
In December, Germany received both its second and third A400M, while France took delivery of its eight aircraft. Also, Turkey and Malaysia got their hands on their third and second aircraft respectively. The latter was handed over to the Royal Malaysian Air Force in Seville on Wednesday 23 December and will head East soon.
The year 2015 saw four deliveries to the Royal Air Force (RAF), who declared the A400M Atlas C1 ‘ready for worldwide tasks’ last September. Meanwhile, Airbus reports it is making progress in assembling the first aircraft for Spain.
The Turkish Air Force hopes to restart flight operations with its Airbus A400M Atlas tactical airlifters in January 2016. Not with the first two aircraft delivered, but with no. 3 only.
The third Atlas was handed over to the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK) at the end of last week. The Turkish mechanics and experts are now going through loads of additional acceptance checks to assure it is ready to be officially fielded after the new year started.