Turkey's first Boeing 737 Peace Eagle Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AEW&C) will formally enter service following a ceremony on 21 February, the Turkish Air Force announced on 31 January.
The country chose to purchase four 737-700-based AEW&C aircraft as far back as 2000, but the USD1.5 billion programme is now lagging its original 2007 delivery date by about seven years.
Boeing is the prime contractor for the programme, with local work under a USD500-million offset package being conducted by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), Aselsan, Haselsan, and Mikes.
A second aircraft is scheduled to be delivered to the air force mid-year, once its test flights are completed.
A range of problems have struck the Peace Eagle programme, including issues with the integration of radars and other military electronic systems. It is understood that Boeing will pay Turkey about USD600 million as compensation for the delays.
It is unclear, however, to what extent Boeing is responsible for the schedule slippage. Similar delays hit Australia's 737-700 Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft, but not South Korea's 737-700 Peace Eye AEW&C aircraft.
TAI's first plane was delivered by Boeing in March 2006, and made its first flight in July 2008.
Turkey's own order for the aircraft was held up by a corruption investigation after an initial downselect of the 737 in 2000 and subsequent tender signing. The Turkish Parliament's Corruption Investigation Committee examined claims the state had lost USD180 million in the procurement of AEW&C systems. However, the investigation was abandoned and the government approved the purchase of four AEW&Cs in 2003.
Meanwhile, the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010 aggravated the programme's delays by making Turkey reluctant to use
Israeli-made electronics such as Elta's electronic support measures (ESM). These were eventually delivered, but relations between the two countries remain frosty.