Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said his country may soon acquire the T-129 attack helicopter and Hurkus turboprop trainer from Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) as the two countries expand defence ties.
According to reports from Turkey, an unnamed government official said Zeidan toured the TAI production facilities on January 3 and was briefed on the possible sale of the two aircraft. The official said TAI is optimistic that Libyan official and the company will start discussions regarding a possible sale, which could be an entry point into for Turkey into the Libyan weapons market.
“We are hopeful about a powerful entry. The Libyans are keen to explore possibilities of cooperation. Libya could be a promising market soon, especially in view of the fact that political relations are excellent,” the official said. Turkey has been developing the T-129A helicopter in partnership with British-Italian aircraft manufacturer AugustaWestland.
So far, the initial T-129A has been used for flight testing while the full specification T-129B is still under development. However, the Turkish company is required to seek US permission to export the US-made LHTEC CTS800-4N engine which powers the T-129 before concluding any sales agreement with Libya.
Zeidan also expressed interest in acquiring the indigenously developed Hurkus-C basic trainer and close air support aircraft. Powered by a 1 600 horsepower engine, the aircraft has a maximum speed of 574 kilometres per hour.
It can fly up to an altitude of 10 577 metres and has an average lifespan of 35 years (or 10 500 flight hours). According to a serial production agreement reached between TAI and the Turkish government on December 26 last year, the company will produce an initial 15 Hurkus-B aircraft which will be equipped for basic pilot training, instrument flying, navigation training and weapons and formation training.
Addressing Turkish media during a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Zeidan said the two countries have reached ‘preliminary consensus’ on the purchase of 20 000 military uniforms and 20 000 assorted weapons. He also expressed interest in buying Turkish-made patrol boats for the Libyan coastguard. IHS Janes reports that Libya is interested in the purchase of Arma and Cobra armoured vehicle’s from Turkey’s Otokar.
Libya is still struggling with insecurity problems and is attempting to bolster the military following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 after nine months of civil war.
Since then, the country has descended into chaos with various post-revolutionary militias, some of whom are alleged to be aligned to Al Qaeda, operating throughout the country.
Turkey is also part of a group of nations which include the US, UK, France, Italy and some Gulf Arab states which are actively training the Libyan Army and providing various forms of assistance which include weapons and logistical supplies. Approximately 1 000 Libyan soldiers were trained in Turkey last year, according to IHS Janes, and another 2 000 will be trained as well.
A total of 15 000 Libyan troops will be trained over the next five years. Turkey, Italy and Britain have pledged to train 8 000 soldiers and police.