…On September 6th of 2018 at the facilities of Turkish Aerospace Industries, the dawn of a new day was welcomed with exquisite golden rays of sun that spread silently and quickly across the hills as daylight effortlessly illuminated the runway like a spotlight for a very special event. Indeed, it was a very special occasion for Turkey and the Turkish aviation industry. Distinguished guests and official delegations breathlessly witnessed a moment in history for the Turkish Helicopter industry. At exactly 06:00am, the T625 Multi-Role Helicopter’s engines revved up and lifted off the runway in the crisp morning air precisely as planned. The stability and maneuvering of the helicopter were carefully followed by the transfixed gaze of the audience. Throughout the 20-minute duration, the helicopter demonstrated its impressive stability in a shorter time span than was expected. But behind this story and the glory of this wonderful morning, there is deep meaning as this much anticipated achievement is almost inexpressible for one industry…
A brief background leading up to the introduction of the much awaited T625 GÖKBEY Helicopter
The Turkish Helicopter Industry has already proven itself with the military T129 ATAK Helicopter program that has been developed and manufactured under the license of the AgustaWestland A-129 Mangusta platform as of 2009. Turkey successfully teamed up with the Italian company Leonardo in consequence of a decade-long rocky road regarding this project. According to a recent statement of Turkish Aerospace CEO & President Temel Kotil during the IDEF’19 press meeting, ‘Turkish Aerospace delivered the 45th T129 ATAK helicopter to the end-users as of May 1st, 2019 and each month almost two helicopters have been leaving the final assembly line’. The fuselage of the Leonardo - AW139 Helicopter is also being manufactured for Leonardo at Turkish Aerospace facilities. The first fuselage manufactured at Turkish Aerospace facilities was delivered in December 2006. Within the framework of the contract with Leonardo, a total of 322 fuselages in various configurations were delivered by the end of 2017. Within new agreement with Leonardo, in total, 80 AW 139 fuselages will be delivered to Leonardo by the end of the year 2021.
The T625 GÖKBEY unarguably reflects the heritage of the T129 ATAK program as well as the AW 139 program with the dedicated contributions of the robust local aerospace industry.
The T625 Multi-Role Helicopter Program was initiated to cater to the light-weight class helicopter requirements both for military and private users worldwide. It was launched upon the decision of the Defense Industry Executive Committee dated on June 15th, 2010. The Turkish Light Class Utility Helicopter (TLUH) Program was signed between the SSB and Turkish Aerospace which was awarded the amount of US$687.3 million in a contract dated June 26th, 2013. On September 6th the contract became effective and the kick-off meeting was held on October 11th, 2013.
In conjunction with the contract effective date, the System Requirements on September 15th, 2015, Preliminary design on October 20th, 2016 and the Dynamic Systems Critical Design on December 28th, 2016 were completed according to the program schedule. The numerical name of T625 was designated to the platform that is comprised of the helicopter’s six-ton gross weight, ‘2’ indicating the two engines and ‘5’ the number of main rotor blades and in 2017, the first mock-up of the T625 Multi-Role Helicopter was debuted at IDEF’ 17 held in May 2017. The first international demonstration was actualized at the Paris Air Show in June of 2017.
Within the scope of the project, the Critical Design Phase was completed on September 29, 2017. As of October 2017, the first prototype design was finalized, and the manufacturing process was initiated by Turkish Aerospace. The Rotor System Test Preparation Review, as well as the first bladed engine run-up tests of the T625 Multi-role Helicopter prototype, was successfully been completed between August 17th and 31st, 2018. The first hover flight of the T625 Multi-Role Helicopter for the testing rotor system, engine, flight control system and transmission were accomplished with the P0 prototype on September 6th, 2018 with the participation of an official delegation. On December 12th, 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the name of the T625 Helicopter to the public during the Turkish Defense Industry Summit, dubbed as GÖKBEY.
Qualification and Certification to be completed along with 3 test prototypes
Within the scheduled program, in total 3 prototypes will be manufactured for the test campaign (flight and ground test), system verification and optimization. To qualify for a particular type of certification, the helicopter should be in compliance with the 1956 safety requirements and successfully perform over a hundred helicopter and system level tests.
The comprehensive test campaign has been initiated by Turkish Aerospace following successful hover flight as of September 6th, 2018. The ground test activities and systems verification test forged ahead during this time period. According to Turkish Aerospace, it was carried within 50 hours of system verification tests over the P0 prototype. Concurrently, the production of the P1 prototype was also completed during this period. As a result of these activities, the required structural retrofitting was reflected in the platform by the design team.
On May 2st, 2019, Turkish Aerospace President & CEO Temel Kotil said that “The production of the second prototype (P1) was completed more recently. We are aiming for it to make its maiden flight in the near future during the press meeting of IDEF'19." . Within the enlightening statement, the first bladed engine run-up of the second prototype (P1) that was fed with GPU (Ground Power Units) was successfully accomplished on May 20th, 2019, following that, the P1 Prototype is expected to make its debut flight in advance of the summer season. The flight envelope’s maximum speed, altitude and load factors will be expanded gradually with the P1 Prototype.
The P1 prototype to be utilized in the flight and ground tests will incorporate the necessary system and structural retrofitting according to the verification tests over the P0 prototype. While in the test campaign, more than 500 sensors mounted on the fuselage, wings, main rotor mast, tail rotor, landing gears and different parts of the platform will relay critical information to the program system room, and all exceeded limits will be monitored in real-time and analyzed by the design team. The payload in particular and analytical data analysis to be collected during the ground and flight tests will be utilized for the optimization of the weight or the structural retrofit over the P3 prototype. Furthermore, the P2 prototype, which will support the P1 prototype during the tests, is still being manufactured at the facilities. According to Turkish Aerospace executives, the system integration of the P2 prototype is expected to be completed in August 2019 and is scheduled to enter into the test campaign in September 2019. Within the scope of the program, over 1500 hours of flight and ground tests are expected to be conducted with the prototypes. While the testing processes and the Technical Data Package are intended to be finalized in 2020, the type CS-29 certification and EASA certification processes are aimed to be completed in the next phase of the program. Within the statement by İsmail Demir, the President of Defense Industries, during the Turkish Defense Industry Summit on December 13th ,2018, the T625 GÖKBEY is expected to be in service in 2021.
The aircraft incorporates several new technology features to provide the highest levels of safety and operational advantages. Within the scope of the program, critical systems such as transmission, rotor, and landing gears as well as aerostructures and avionics systems are designed from scratch at Turkish Aerospace facilities in Ankara, Turkey.
A new generation, advanced aerodynamic indigenous rotor design will provide excellent performance in the most demanding operating environments. The T625 GÖKBEY design also benefits from extensive use of composites, advanced airframe aerodynamics, next-generation widescreen digital glass cockpit design and state-of-the-art avionics for maximum situational awareness.
Under the Turkish Light-Weight Utility Helicopter (TLUH) Program, Turkish Aerospace has completed design, development and manufacture of an indigenous twin-engine 5-ton class light utility helicopter with a takeoff weight of 6 tons and powered by two CTS800-4AT turboshaft engines, 1373shp each, enabling the aircraft to perform in hot & high environments and perform safely in a one engine loss condition for Category-A certification. The unique TS1400 Turboshaft engine, which is going to replace the CTS800-4AT in the serial production period, currently has been in development by TEI since 2017. The preliminary prototype of the turbojet core to be utilized on the TS1400 engine was successfully tested for the first time on a test bench on June 11, 2018. The SSB announced this success via its official twitter account; “Under our Turboshaft Engine Development Project, production of the preliminary prototype of the core motor which constitutes the main core of the TS1400 engine was completed and the first ignition test was successfully performed.” The TS 1400 Turboshaft Engine development project consists of five stages which are as follows; the development of the core engine, prototype engine stage, mature engine stage, certificated engine stage and integrated engine stage. Under the eight-year schedule TEI is to design, develop, produce and certify two 1400shp turboshaft engine (TS1400, ITAR-free) prototypes.
The T625 GÖKBEY is designed for IFR and VFR single-pilot operations, night operations and flight in known icing conditions. The geometry of the helicopter is optimized for maximum aerodynamic performance with retractable landing gears hence providing efficient fuel consumption leading to better range and endurance. Thanks to the auxiliary fuel tank, the range of the helicopter surpasses the 950km range accompanied by five-hour endurance.
The T625 GÖKBEY has a five-blade main rotor and a four-blade tail rotor to minimize vibration and noise. Both the main and tail rotor hubs are fully articulated with elastomeric bearings. Both rotor systems are driven by a transmission system, which consists of the three-stage main gearbox, having the capability of operation for 30 minutes in the event of loss of lubrication.
It also incorporates a state-of-the-art, four-axis, dual redundant automatic flight control system to improve helicopter stability, handling and reduce the pilot workload in-flight.
Aselsan’s Modular Avionic Touch-Screen Environment (MATE) debuts on GÖKBEY
The new generation smart cockpit of the T625 GÖKBEY and all its avionics systems were developed by Aselsan, demonstrating competitive and innovative solutions in the global aviation market with this new generation smart cockpit.
The new generation smart cockpit MATE (Modular Avionics Touchscreen Environment) consists of two wide touchscreen (8x20 inches) Integrated Mission Displays and two touch screen (8x10 inches) data entry Touch Command Control Units. MATE was developed to be compatible with the civil aviation standards of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (SHGM) enabling pilots to control all avionics systems on the helicopter via the touchscreen cockpit displays. The navigation, communication, identification for friend or foe (military configuration), electronic warfare (military configuration) and EO/IR systems of the helicopter were designed by Aselsan as well.
The T625 GÖKBEY Utility Helicopter’s flight and mission management software was also developed by Aselsan. This software enables the helicopter to navigate Performance Based Navigation up to the level of RNP 0.3 (Required Navigation Performance 0.3) in all civil airspaces all over the world. The unique digital map and Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (HTWAS) software enables pilots to perform safe flights in extreme conditions.
The T625 GÖKBEY Helicopter is designed to offer a superior payload and diversified configurations to end-users. The T625 GÖKBEY can accommodate a maximum of two crew, namely a pilot and co-pilot, and up to 12 passengers. The extensive cabin space can also be customized according to the requirements of the end-user such as Search and Rescue, Passenger & Cargo Transportation, V.I.P., Firefighting, Air Ambulance, and Off-shore operations.
Turkish Aerospace aspires to be one of the greatest OEMs within the next 5 years
Turkish Aerospace already employs about 400 engineers for the various programs in the Helicopter Department. The acquired knowledge and know-how from the AW 139 program, the T129 program as well as T-70i General Utility Helicopter program (under the license of S-70i Black Hawk) have strengthened the company to advance to the next stage. In addition, the unique and national 10-Ton Class ATAK-2 program and the 10-Ton Class Utility Helicopter program, which recently was initiated in the charge of Turkish Aerospace by the decision of procurement authorities. According to the President & CEO of Turkish Aerospace, Temel Kotil’s statement during IDEF’19, the company intends to ramp-up their annual helicopter production capacity, up to 120 units in next five years. Turkish Aerospace’s aspiration is to penetrate the international market with a diverse range of helicopter platforms and to become one of the greatest OEMs such as Boeing, Airbus, Leonardo, Sikorsky, etc. world-wide in the mid and long-term.
If we consider the Heavy-Weight ATAK-2, the T-70i General Utility Helicopter Program, the 10 Ton Class Utility Helicopter program as well as the T625 GÖKBEY program, all of these helicopters will enter into serial production within the upcoming period and this assertive goal is not unattainable. Undeniably, Turkey is striding forward with the momentum of visible progress towards its ambitious vision, with resolute and steadfast ambition built upon the strength of an accomplished and dedicated industry.
Stay tuned for more developments on the Turkish Helicopter Programs!