Hurkus – as free as a bird!
Just when you thought there were enough new military training aircraft in the world, with the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, Super Tucano and Pilatus PC-21 dominating the market, there is now another, as Alan Warnes reports.
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is moving ahead, probably a bit slower than originally planned, with its Hurkus (free bird), which it terms as a basic trainer aircraft.
It has been designed to meet the training and light attack/armed reconnaissance aircraft requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces – just as the T-6 and Super Tucano has.
However, potentially, it has a huge domestic market and fits into the Turkish Government’s indigenisation programmes as it strives for self-sufficiency.
Three different configurations are being built:
• Hurkus-A is the basic civilian version, recently certified with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) CS-23 requirements.
• Hurkus-B will be an advanced military training version with integrated avionics, including hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS), head-up display (HUD), multi-function displays (MFDs) and mission computer with virtual weapons.
• Hurkus-C is a new generation light attack/reconnaissance aircraft.
Since the prototype Hurkus-A – TC-VCH – made its first flight on August 29, 2013, followed by the second – TC-VCI – on September 10, 2014, both have been flying extensively. The focus has been on getting the Hurkus-A certified by Turkey’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and EASA.
TAI finally achieved that goal on July 12, 2016 when EASA ratified the aircraft, the day after the DGCA’s validation. The aircraft had performed 570 flight hours in 534 sorties up to the certification.
The third and fourth prototypes are non-flyers; the third used for static tests and the fourth for fatigue and damage.
The Hurkus-A is powered by a Pratt and Whitney PT6A-68T 1600shp turboprop engine and has a five bladed aluminium Hartzell HC-B5MA-3 propeller, launching the aircraft to a maximum cruise speed of 310 knots (574km/h). It has a maximum rate climb of 4370ft/min and a stall speed of 77 knots (143 km/h). It is being developed purely for the civilian market.
At this year’s Farnborough International Airshow TAI’s CEO, Muharrem Dortkasli, said the company had “started production of Hurkus-B and deliveries will start in mid-2018”.
This variant is exactly the same as the -A version, except that it will be configured with a glass cockpit for military use, housing a HOTAS, HUD and three MFDs developed by Aselsan.
Ozcan Ertem, senior vice president executive of TAI’s aircraft group, added: “We won’t be going through EASA or DGCA certification again as it’s ostensibly the same aircraft but, because of the new cockpit, we will be subject to a military supplemental type certificate (STC).”
The Turkish Government contract was made effective in 2014 for 15 Hurkus-Bs, with options on a further 40, to equip the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) flying training wing at Izmir-Cigli, the home of the newly opened Multinational Military Flight Crew Training Center (MMFCT-C).
The new military trainer will work alongside the South Korean-designed Korean Aerospace Industries KT-1T basic trainer, which currently equips the TurAF’s 122 Filo. There are 40 KT-1Ts based at Izmir-Cigli, fulfilling a basic trainer role.
The TurAF is keen to receive an aircraft that should have been delivered, according to original plans, a year or so ago. With its 1,600shp powerplant it offers a higher performance than the KT-1T’s 1,100shp engine, while the more advanced avionics will ensure an easier transition to fifth-generation fighters like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or Turkey’s new TF-X.
Ertem continued: “The first Hurkus-Bs will be delivered in June 2018 with the 15th and last one by June 2019. Then we hope the options for 40 more will be exercised.”.
During June, TurAF test pilots/instructor pilots tasked to report on the aircraft’s flying characteristics, started operating the Hurkus-B. “Aselsan will hand over the new cockpit by the end of 2017, when we hope to make the maiden flight. We will qualify the cockpit and start deliveries in June 2018,” said Ertem.
Martin-Baker will supply the crew escape system for the Hurkus-B turboprop trainers as part of a deal signed during July 2014. The agreement covers the supply of the very successful Mk16 ejection seat, designated T16N for all Hurkus-B series aircraft for the TurAF. The company’s project manager, Chris Brooke Izzard, said at the time that the system would be slightly adapted from the Mk16 equipping the two Hurkus-A trainers.
Meanwhile, TAI is also developing the armed Hurkus-C, capable of carrying a 1,500kg (3,300lb) payload.
This additional weight will comprise munitions across seven hardpoints, as well as sensors and extra fuel weight.
The variant is being developed to meet the Turkish Land Forces (TLF) light attack/armed reconnaissance requirements.
Dortkasli said at Farnborough that the first flight of Hurkus-C, and the firing of at least one weapon type from the platform, should take place in May 2017, in time for the IDEF defence exhibition in Istanbul.
While the second Hurkus-A prototype (TC-VCI) will remain, the first version (TC-VCH) will be converted to the -C demonstrator in time for the IDEF Exhibition.
“The demo weapon launch means firings will happen before then, when we want to make one release from one of the aircraft’s stations,” explained Dortkasli.
“The TLF wants us to put the T129 ATAK helicopter’s weapons on Hurkus and, of course, we can. It will be a complimentary aircraft – for armed reconnaissance.
“Because of the external fuel tanks it can stay aloft for four hours, allowing it to escort convoys, which a jet fighter or helicopter support cannot do – their maximum is 1-1.15 hours. So we are working out the TLF’s operational requirements covering such aspects as to where they will operate, what it will need to carry and, of course, the threat.”
The Hurkus-C aircraft will comprise a B cockpit, HOTAS and weapons. At IDEF it will still have the civilian cockpit, as there will not be a full -C version until a contract is signed. Currently, the weapons being integrated are the Roketsan Cirit 2.75 guided rocket system, Roketsan UMTAS long-range anti-tank missile and a podded machine. The FLIR Systems camera, which will also equip the aircraft, will be operated by a weapons systems operator in the rear seat.
In terms of delivery, Ertem said: “If the TLF were to place an order by end of the year, it could well be delivered in June 2019 following the 15th aircraft for the TurAF. That’s when the first slot becomes available, but we will have the capability to call upon additional tooling, to speed up production.”