Update to Turkey’s efforts to sell T-129 helicopters to Pakistan
November 19, 2017
Photo credit: Turkish Aerospace Industries

Update to Turkey’s efforts to sell T-129 helicopters to Pakistan

The Turkish aviation news website Kokpit Aero reports that Turkey’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is actively pushing for a Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T-129 attack helicopter sale to Pakistan.

Citing Turkish MoD sources, Kokpit Aero reports that a T-129 was sent to Pakistan for evaluation. If the tests are successful, the T-129 will be exported to Pakistan. It would be Turkey’s largest defence export.

Notes & Comments:

It is not clear if Kokpit Aero was referring to the T-129 tests that took place in Pakistan in June 2016 or a different and recent set of tests. In an interview published by MSI Turkish Defence Review in April, the Turkish Undersecretary for Defence Industries (SSM) Dr. Ismail Demir said that Pakistani officials would be present at the T-129’s Mizrak-U (UMTAS-L) anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) tests. These tests were successfully completed at the beginning of April. Considering the addition of new weapons and systems to the T-129 via the T-129B, it is plausible that the T-129B will now be shown to the Pakistan Army.

At Pakistan’s biennial defence exhibition IDEAS in November, TAI officials claimed that the Pakistan Army was satisfied with the T-129’s performance – TAI said it was waiting to be called for commercial and technical negotiations. In February, TAI’s general manager Temel Kotil said that TAI had the requisite licenses to re-export the T-129’s powerplant, the CTS800 turboshaft engine, and that he anticipated a T-129 sale to Pakistan “in the coming months.”

Currently, the Pakistan Army has 12 Bell Helicopters AH-1Z Viper and four Mil Mi-35M assault helicopters on order. These will lead the effort to modernize the Pakistan Army Aviation (PAA) corps’ fleet, which is built upon legacy AH-1F/S Cobras. The first three AH-1Z are scheduled for delivery in 2017. The AH-1Z order will be accompanied by up to 1,000 AGM-114R Hellfire II ATGM. The T-129 appears to be competing against the Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation Z-10 for a ‘plus one’ attack helicopter requirement.

Interestingly, each of the Turkish companies involved in the T-129 program offered parallel goods to the Pakistani military, especially at IDEAS. For example, Roketsan pitched its Mizrak (UMTAS) ATGM platform to the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The Mizrak is the principal ATGM of the T-129, with the 8-km range Mizrak-U being qualified from the ATAK in April. Likewise, Aselsan, which is supplying ASELPOD targeting pods to the PAF and is interested in supplying systems for the Army’s al-Khalid tank program, is responsible for the T-129’s avionics, countermeasures as well as sensor and targeting pod.

A sale of T-129s to Pakistan would not be limited to TAI, but it would likely involve Aselsan, Roketsan and Havelsan (for simulators) as well. Considering the industry-wide scope of the program, it is not a surprise that the Turkish MoD places a high amount of value to the prospective sale. Pakistan will try to secure co-production and transfer-of-technology benefits through such a sale. In this respect, the Turkish SSM has been generally receptive. In fact, TAI contracted Anka drone-related manufacturing work to Pakistan in 2013, demonstrating its interest in opening Pakistan’s industries to workshare activities.

  • Amir

    If the PAA select the T-129, it would be good to diversify military suppliers and insist on local assembly/manufacture so that the country is not increasingly reliant on China.

  • Alex Retiman

    Engine is western and has the risk of being sanctioned. What can be done to avert this?

    • Turkey is developing its own turboshaft engine for the T-129, T-625 and Hurkus. So the engine issue might be fleeting.

      • Qasim57

        Turbofans and Turboshafts are seriously sophisticated tech, would Turkey be able to pursue these programs on its own, now that their ties with the EU have frayed of late?

        • Despite their shaky ties with the E.U, the Turkish industry has strong linkages with the U.S. and U.K. Those relations as well as Turkey’s own financial investment in STEM and organic R&D has enabled them to build a workable base to pursue these programs.

          • irfab

            I think Pakistan need to concentrate on Modern Frigate accusition from Turkey For Attack helicopter Mi.35 could be the best option from my opinion as it is the multipurpose plate form and heavy wepon caring capacity

      • Haçlı Siken

        Turkey is developing engine for TAI TF-X fighter jet too.

  • Taddy Mason

    I don’t understand the utility of having a variety of platforms which fulfill the same role, such as the AH-1Z Viper and Mil Mi-35M, as this sounds like a logistics nightmare: having multiple parts for the same role and especially if the country comes under sanctions, not having the replacement parts to hand.

    • Syed Bushra

      If anything, diversification softens the impact of sanctions. If US were to sanction a country unilaterally, as is the case with Russia currently, US-based suppliers will be required to follow the law of the land. While suppliers of other platforms can expect a boon in business. These suppliers, based outside of US, will then have little incentive to participate in unilateral US sanctions.

      Also, Hind E, or Mi-35M, is supposed to be used in anti-narcotics operations.

  • Aaif khan

    Ah1z is by far the best copter. Had not been there any risk of supply of spare parts by U.S than PA would have for sure Procure them in large number.

    There are some senior people here, I want to ask them is it possible to get the mi28 in an empty configuration (only aiframe and engine) and source the subsystem and Munitions from Turkey as Pak has good relations with Turkey. They’ll also provide mw radar.

    I guesd that both T-129 and mi28 will be procure.

  • Aamir

    Pakistan has 40+ AH-1S/F that need to be replaced in the next few years. At this point we have 19 new gun ships being added this year, that leaves 20+ that need to replaced. It makes sense to look at the T 129, it is a mature & capable platform and with Turkey in track to develop & manufacturer its own turbo shaft, it makes sense to go with this aircraft. By selecting this aircraft we will have access to a plethora of weapons & sensors, plus the millimeter wave radar that turkey is working in.

  • Suleman Shehbaz

    A local news channel Dunya news said we are going to jointly produce this beauty … Any confirmation?

    • At the minimum, KSEW will assemble some – or all – of the ships. They might even manufacture using imported steel and sub-systems (e.g. engines).

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