In an effort to boost operational capabilities in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Turkey asked the U.S. government late December if it could sell to the Turkish army in the short term up to 12 Cobra-type attack helicopters already being used by the U.S. military.
However, sources now say that this kind of transfer is unlikely because these helicopters remain in short supply even for the U.S. military.
Turkey last year signed a multibillion-dollar deal with the Italian-British AgustaWestland for joint production of at least 30 attack helicopters, Turkishversions of the A129 Mangusta International. But even in the best of cases, those platforms will not be ready for delivery before 2013.
As a stop-gap solution, Turkish officials then decided to ask the United States if it had some available Cobra attack helicopters.
The Turkish army already operates more than 25 choppers from the Cobra family, some of them AH-1W Super Cobras and the rest earlier H and P models.Turkey acquired those choppers from the United States in the 1990s.
Bell Helicopter Textron produces these attack helicopters mainly for the U.S. Marine Command.
'US needs these choppers'
U.S. ambassador to Ankara, Ross Wilson, told reporters here in January that the United States wanted to help Turkey on this matter but that attack helicopters were in "very short supply" in the United States and in the world.
One U.S. source said that this situation remained in place.
"We have never received a U.S. commitment on the transfer of such helicopters," a Turkish source also said.
One defense analyst said the key reason why Washington was reluctant to sell some of these used helicopter gunships to Turkey was the strain faced by the U.S. Marines.
"I don't think that such a transfer is likely at least in the short term," said the analyst.
The U.S. Marine Command is already attacking in Iraq and sent this month some 3,400 Marines to join combat operations against the Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
And Super Cobras form an integral part of the Marines' combat capabilities.
In terms of attack helicopters, Boeing produces the AH-64D Apache Long Bow for the U.S. Army. The United States has exported some of those platforms to a number of allies, including Greece.
But having operated Cobras for more than 15 years, the Turkish army has repair and maintenance capabilities only for this kind of attack helicopter, and lacks infrastructure or training for any other helicopter gunship, including the Apache.
Equipped with moderns missiles and other arms, attack helicopters were originally developed for anti-tank fighting and support for friendly forces in ground combat, but in today's military theater they are also effective weapons in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.
Bell Helicopter Textron, maker of the AH-1Z, the latest in the Cobra family, won a Turkish tender in 2000 for joint manufacture of more than 50 attack helicopters. But after five years of contract talks reached nowhere, the Turkish government canceled that deal in 2005.
Ankara then last year selected AgustaWestland as winner of a subsequent competition, this time boycotted by U.S. manufacturers on grounds that Turkish contract specifications were not compatible with U.S. export laws and regulations.
Last Mod: 29 Mart 2008, 22:11