ISTANBUL --- Turkey is stepping up defense industry exports to South and Southeast Asian countries such as Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in a drive to diversify beyond traditional customers in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
As well as lower prices than Western competitors, Ankara is offering technology transfers to Asian customers, and joint production projects with few strings attached, according to Turkish observers.
Turkey's biggest-ever arms order is expected to be confirmed shortly by Pakistan, a fellow Muslim country and traditional ally, which plans to pay $1.5 billion for 30 T129 attack helicopters jointly developed by Italy's AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).
"I can say as a pilot that this is the world's best and most effective assault helicopter. Pakistan army is testing it for four years and chose it as best option," Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said in October, after testing a T129. "Contract negotiations [are] going on with full speed," he added.
Pakistan is also negotiating to acquire four corvettes from STM, a Turkish defense company, for a price in the region of $1 billion. Rana Tanveer Hussain, Pakistan's minister for defense production, told Turkish media in November that "the process is complete, and construction of the ships will start in near future." According to the minister, two of the ships will be constructed in Karachi.
The big-ticket deals will follow Pakistan's 2016 decision to choose STM to modernize its Agosta 90B-class diesel-electric fast-attack submarines rather than France's DCNS, the original designer and producer who later changed the company's name to Naval Group. STM also delivered a navy fleet tanker to Pakistan, which was built and outfitted in Karachi. (end of excerpt)
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