ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- In a sign of Turkey's growing economic might and sophistication, the country is increasing its indigenous arms production.
Turkish Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Caglayan said that Turkey's defense contractor KaleKalip will start manufacturing F135 engines for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters along with Sikorsky helicopters under license from the United States' United Technologies Corporation, the Star Gazetesi reported Wednesday.
Caglayan told reporters about his meeting last week with UTC executives aboard a plane en route to Turkey from the United States, noting that UTC's discussions with KaleKalip began last week, adding, "They will sign a deal next week."
KaleKalip initially will produce 90 percent of F135 engines' components for the F-35 aircraft and eventually will manufacture the entire engine. Caglayan said that KaleKalip will launch a $50 million research and development program for the project, adding: "It will start production this year. A group of UTC officials will come to Turkey next week. The plant will probably be based in the Aegean Free Zone."
KaleKalıp's engine plant will be Turkey's second jet engine manufacturing facility, following Tusas Engine Industries, which produces F-16 fighter jet engines.
The F-35 is descended from the X-35 of the Joint Strike Fighter program, whose development has primarily funded by the United States, with additional contributions from Britain and other partner governments, including Turkey.
In a separate initiative UTC has been working with KaleKalip and Alp Aviation on a project to manufacture Sikorsky helicopters with the goal of designing and building a Sikorsky helicopter model entirely in Turkey for export.
Of the joint helicopter project Caglayan said: "They have so far achieved exports of $80 million from Turkey. Talks are under way for $1 million export a day."
In another aeronautical joint venture, America's Pratt & Whitney has joined with Turkish national airline Turk Hava Yollari subsidiary Turkish Technic in operating an aircraft engine overhaul facility at Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, 20 miles west of Istanbul, from which the partners expect $500 million in annual sales.
The rising aeronautical cooperation is another sign of the maturation of Turkey's indigenous arms industries, with Caglayan stating current projections of country's defense industry exports are that the sector's turnover would reach $3 billion next year, more than tripling the country's 2009 exports of $832 million.
The Turkish armed forces are benefiting from increased production, as they now procure 46 percent of their defense requirements from indigenous producers, from a low of 20 percent in the past.