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US approves Turkey sale of helicopters to Philippines

May 18, 2021 at 3:13 pm

A picture taken on March 2, 2018 shows a Turkish T129 ATAK helicopter [BAKR ALKASEM/AFP via Getty Images]

The United States has approved Turkey’s decision to sell military helicopters to the Philippines in defiance of Congressional opposition, Turkish officials reportedly revealed yesterday.

According to the news outlet Middle East Eye, which cited the corporate communications president of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) Serdar Demir, the paperwork and licences required for the sale of six T129 military helicopters were issued by the US.

The T129 helicopter requires two LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines, jointly produced by the US firm Honeywell and the British company Rolls-Royce, and foreign companies seeking military-grade commercial sales are obligated by US law to acquire export permits.

That approval by Washington finalised the deal that had been in the pipeline since 2018, with the delay caused by Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system and the strained relations between the two countries ever since. The deal was further significantly obstructed by the US sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in December last year.

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An anonymous Turkish official cited by Middle East Eye revealed that the deal was finally approved and the licences were issued without going through US Congress, as American legislation only requires major defence sales of $25 million or more to have Congressional oversight. “The licence was directly issued by the State Department,” he stated. “We also received export licences for the engines needed last year for T129 helicopters to be used by Turkish authorities.”

It was not only Turkey’s contract with the Philippines that was impacted by the US sanctions, an even bigger deal with Pakistan has also been significantly delayed over the past few years.

The deadline for the TAI’s $1.5 billion contract with Islamabad to sell 30 of the T129 helicopters was extended earlier this year in order to give Ankara time to lobby Washington. Turkish officials reportedly doubt that the approval will be granted by Congress.

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