Bell Helicopter plans comeback to Turkish market

May 10, 2012, Thursday/ 17:19:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A US-based military aircraft manufacturer is preparing to return to Turkey after it pulled out several years ago over a dispute over a tender.

Bell Helicopter, which is a part of the Textron Group, shut down their offices in Turkey following negotiations to sell military helicopters to Turkey after the talks went nowhere, but now sources say the industrial giant is planning to return.

Sources say Textron executive John Garrison along with a group of company representatives met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday to ensure political support before resuming their operations here

The prime minister also serves as the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Undersecretariat of the Defense Industry (SSM), which has the final say on national weapons purchases. Other decision makers on the Executive Committee include Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel.

In fact, the company has already partially returned to Turkey. In April, Textron sold 15 Bell 429 helicopters to the National Police Department. According to sources who wish to remain anonymous, the company is planning to compete in a general purpose helicopter procurement tender for the Land Forces Command. The company wants to propose its latest 412 helicopter model for this tender.

The last time Textron participated in a tender was in 2004, when the company competed against Russia in a tender for assault helicopters. The tender was able to be reopened after years of talks with the company. Turkey canceled the tender, saying that outsourcing tenders would not help in contributing to the country's own national defense industry. Textron and other actors felt at the time that Turkey was stalling the competing companies and stealing their time. Textron simply pulled out of the Turkish market by closing its Ankara office in protest of its treatment during that tender.

Recently, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) started co-manufacturing assault helicopters with Italy's Augusta Westland as part of a model that will enhance the national defense industry.

In a stock exchange statement it made in April, Textron announced it had quadrupled profits from commercial and military helicopter sales in the first quarter of this year. The company predicts $12.5 billion in sales for this year.

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