ISTANBUL – The Turkish government is in negotiations with Pakistan over the sale of its T129 ATAK attack helicopters, confirmed the head of the helicopters department at Turkey’s Undersecretariat of Defence Industries (SSM).
According to Hüseyin Avşar, discussion of “administrative and financial terms” were taking place with Islamabad for 30 T129 helicopters.
“A far-reaching technical evaluation was managed fruitfully between the related parties and the T129 ‘Atak’ has accomplished a harsh test campaign in Pakistan،” he confirmed.
The deal between the two brotherly countries for the military conveyance was originally reported by aviation journalist Alan Warnes who hinted that the Turkish side was hoping for a concrete deal by late 2017 or early 2018.
In February, TAI’s General Manager Dr. Temel Kotil stated in a speech to the İstanbul Düşünce Vakfı (i.e. Istanbul Though Foundation) that TAI “will sell [T-129s] to Pakistan in the coming months.” Dr. Kotil also confirmed that Turkey acquired licenses to export the T129’s CTS800 turboshaft engine.
Pakistan examined the T129 in June 2016 and was impressed by the T129’s performance in high-altitude conditions and its ferrying range. The Army had flown the P6 from Pano Aqil, the Hindu Kush (at 14,000 ft) and between Quetta and Multan (i.e. 480 km) according to Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).
Army’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa also visited Turkey in June and examined the TAI’s T129 production site
During the 2017 International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF), which took place in May in Istanbul, TAI inked a memorandum-of-understanding (MoU) with Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). TAI’s CEO Dr. Temel Kotil followed-up on the IDEF MoU with a visit to PAC at the end of May.
Aviation journalists and officials privy to the developments consider Pakistan’s T129 ATAK program a significant breakthrough in its drive against terrorism.
Mustafa Şeker, the Deputy Undersecretary at SSM (Savunma Sanayii Mustesarligi) described that the T129 was of interest to each service arm of Pakistan.
“The vehicle is required by the Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force. Thus, all three services are involved in the process [of evaluating the T129]” he said.
The Pakistan Army in its bid to expand its combat capabilities was seeking T129 to complement its incoming Bell Helicopter AH-1Z Vipers from US.
The Army officials evaluated Changhe Z-10 and TAI T129, both of which were lighter-weight than the incoming AH-1Z.
The PAF could also theoretically use the T129 as a CAS asset (close air support) for its combat search and rescue or special operations forces requirements. Alternatively, it could seek several units as training units at the Airpower Centre of Excellence, which is to train for counterinsurgency-related CAS.
The T129 is an upgraded variant of the AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta, which flew in 1983 and entered production that year for the Italian Army. Derived from the A129CBT, the T129 benefits from an uprated engine (i.e. LHTEC CTS800-4A), airframe modifications as well as new tail rotor and drive train.
Turkey selected the T129 in 2007 with manufacturing and third-party export rights. Aselsan, Roketsan and Havelsan developed weapons and subsystems for the T129.