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Turkish official confirms T129 talks with Pakistan
August 23, 2017
Photo credit: Turkish Aerospace Industries

Turkish official confirms T129 talks with Pakistan

Hüseyin Avşar, the Head of the Helicopters Department at Turkey’s Undersecretariat of Defence Industries (SSM) told Defence Turkey that discussion of “administrative and financial terms” were taking place with Pakistan in regards to the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T129 ATAK attack helicopter.

This coincides with a June news report by aviation journalist Alan Warnes (via Monch) of Pakistan holding talks with TAI for 30 T129 attack helicopters. Warnes reported that the Turkish side was hoping for a concrete deal by late 2017 or early 2018.

Pakistan examined the T129 in June 2016. As per TAI, the Pakistan Army 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).

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.

Notes & Comments:

Statements from Turkish officials and journalist reports suggest that the Pakistan T129 ATAK program will be a significant venture – if brought to fruition.

The Deputy Undersecretary at SSM Mustafa Şeker outlined (to MSI Turkish Defence Review in Karachi in November) that the T129 was of interest to each service arm: “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].”

It was evident that the Pakistan Army was seeking another attack helicopter to complement its incoming Bell Helicopter AH-1Z Vipers. The machines it evaluated were the Changhe Z-10 and TAI T129, both of which were lighter-weight than the AH-1Z.

However, the reasons why the Navy and Air Force were included in the program are not known.

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is the parent of PAC, which is slated to serve an local industry function for any Pakistani T129 purchase. Dr. Temel Kotil had confirmed that PAC would be a parts supplier for the T129. Aviation Week suggested that final assembly at PAC could also be on the table.

The Pakistan Navy has its own infantry force – the Marines – which are tasked with protecting Pakistan’s coastal assets, such as bases, dockyards and shipyards. It is plausible, though purely speculative, that the T129 is of interest as a long-term possibility of providing the Marines with close air support (CAS) assets.

Besides PAC, the PAF could also theoretically use the T129 as a CAS asset, but 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 prospect of a T129 order accompanying parts manufacturing at PAC and – as one might presume with PAC in the equation – depot-level maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities could make the T129 more affordable to acquire and operate. This could help enable the PAF and PN to acquire the T129, albeit in the long-run and after the Army has fulfilled its requirements.

For further information and insight into Pakistan’s efforts to procure the T129, visit Quwa’s earlier pieces, such as the industry opportunities of the program.

  • John John Slade

    Thought that T-129 are expensive but building it under license could reduce the cost. If it success then PAF air capabality will be improved compared from the past. However, Pakistan Army still need modernised. Haven’t heard news about Pakistan Al-Khalid II program development.

    • TAI in Turkey will always manage most of the airframe manufacturing, but that is still cheaper than what it would have been in Western Europe. If you factor in some of the parts being produced in Kamra and absorbing a big chunk of the after-sale maintenance (esp. spare parts production) in Pakistan, it could be more affordable than a direct import (such as AH-1Z).

      Re: al-Khalid 2 the info available is from IDEAS 2016. We’re not going to hear much until the PA and HIT decide to provide additional details.

    • Fxj

      Theres a guy named Yusuf Akbaba in twitter he says
      T129 ATAK and JF 17 prices are the same

      • They might be close in terms of only the cost of manufacturing and possibly even flying, but Turkey still has a $1.2 billion overhead for acquiring the T129 technology and IP. If they intend to amortize that over 100 units (which is the likely figure of combining Turkey and Pakistani orders) you’re looking at a higher cost.

        Based on the numbers available … it cost Myanmar $560 m to get 16 JF-17s with training, spare parts, etc. Turkey agreed to spend $3.2 billion (in 2007) on 50 T129 (which does include ToT of manufacturing, IP and export licenses).

  • Steve

    If anyone had seen a tank brigade on the move in the subcontinent one thing is always obvious; clouds and clouds of dust that totally obscure viability, except maybe for the vanguard. We need something akin to the Longbow radar and millimetre wave guided munitions as laser and optical guided munitions may be ineffective. I hope the army has thought about that and are factoring it in. Our adversaries have AH-64E which has the above. It may be a critical advantage if their helicopters can target our tanks and our helicopters can’t see a thing. Bilal can you comment please?

    • I don’t know if the Army is looking at mmW radars (it should be), but it has options on both ends of the systems it tested, including the T129 (i.e. Meteksan MILDAR).

      • Steve

        Of course it should be. I hope they are. An Apache hiding in a dust cloud can be devastating for us. You could maybe check with your contacts.

        • The thing is … for the things I do hear, I refrain from posting or disclosing until it’s on the news 😛

          • Steve

            Understood 🙂

          • Syed Bushra

            You are a thorough professional. 🙂

      • ahmria

        I hope the Turks look at mounting the Mildar mmw radar on top of the main rotors as the Mildar in its current form is a podded system and mounted higher up should increase its range.

    • khushal ahmad

      This can serve as the stepping stone to indegenious helicopters as Turkey being a brotherly nation will provide technical know how. So let’s go for it

      • ahmria

        Turkey would provide knowledge for a price just like anyone else.

  • Syed Bushra

    The prospect of a T129 order accompanying parts manufacturing at PAC and – as one might presume with PAC in the equation – depot-level maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities could make the T129 more affordable to acquire and operate.

    Given that TAI T129 is an affordable option, 30 doesn’t seem like a number that would meet Pakistan Army’s growing needs on various borders. Is the Army likely to increase the numbers over time?

    • If the goal of having final assembly and parts manufacturing at PAC is retained, they might add several helicopters a year to the fleet over the long-term after the initial order.

      • jamshed_kharian_pak

        Excellent news Turkey-Pakistan obtains militarily close friend later IR Iran can dream come true

  • SP

    There does not seem to be much difference between T129 and Z10. Perhaps a comparison between these two would have been useful. Unless T129 offers some great advantage in terms of technology or cost (which I doubt) I think Pakistan should go for Z10.

    • mazhar

      SPECIFICATION

      CAIC WZ-10 of China

      General characteristics

      Crew: 2
      Length: 14.15 m (ft)
      Rotor diameter: 13.0 m [1] (ft)
      Height: 3.85 m (ft)
      Disc area: m² (ft&#178
      Empty weight: 5540 kg [1] (lb)
      Loaded weight: kg (lb)
      Useful load: 1500 kg [1] (lb)
      Max takeoff weight: 7000 kg (lb)
      Powerplant: 2× WZ-9 turboshafts [1], 957 kw (1285 hp) each
      Performance

      Maximum speed: 300+ km/h [1]
      Cruise speed: 270+ km/h [1]
      Ferry range: 800+ km [1] ()
      Service ceiling: 6400 m (ft)
      Rate of climb: over 12+ m/s [1] (ft/min)
      Disc loading: kg/m² (lb/ft&#178
      Maximum acceleration: +3 g (29 m/s&#178
      Armament

      Guns: 23 mm or 30 mm autocannon mounted on chin turret
      Hardpoints: 4
      Rockets: 57 mm, 90 mm multi-barrel unguided rocket pods
      Air-to-surface missiles: Up to 8 ATGM

      T129
      General characteristics

      Crew: 2 pilots
      Length: 14.6 m (47 ft 11 in)
      Rotor diameter: 11.90 m (39 ft 0 in)
      Height: 3.4 m (11 ft 2 in)
      Disc area: 444.9 m² (4,789 ft&#178
      Max takeoff weight: 5,000 kg (11,023 lb)
      Powerplant: 2× LHTEC CTS800-4A turboshaft, 1,014 kW (1,361 shp) each
      Propellers: five blade rotor
      Performance

      Cruise speed: 269 km/h (145 knots, 167 mph)
      Range: 561 km (303 nm, 341 mi)
      Ferry range: 1,000 km (540 nm, 620 mi)
      Armament

      Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) three-barrel gatling-type cannon (500 rounds)
      Rockets: 4 pods with
      38× 81 mm (3.19 in) unguided rockets or
      76× 70 mm (2.75 in) unguided rockets or
      12.7 mm machine gun-pod
      Missiles:

      8× AGM-114 Hellfire, BGM-71 TOW, Hydra 70, Spike-ER anti-tank missiles and Sura D/Snora.
      4-8× AIM-92 Stinger or Mistral or AIM-9 Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles

      Air-to-air missiles:
      Up to 8 TY-90
      Up to 4 PL-5, PL-7, PL-9
      Avionics

      YH millimetre-wave fire-control radar
      YH-96 electronic warfare suite

    • ahmria

      The T129 is lighter and has marginally more powerful engines than the Z10. I personally think the T129 would be a better choice out of the two unless the Chinese are able to install turboshafts that can produce at least 1900shp as the current Chinese turboshaft lacks power for a heavy gunship like the Z10. Also tech wise I think the Turks might again edge it with their avionics and sensors.

      • SP

        Having looked at videos of both the Z10 seems a lot more agile than the T129, therefore its hard to believe that the Z10 is underpowered.

  • Sami Shahid

    Awesome…. Pakistan Marines should definitely get gun ship helicopters like T-129 for more fire power at the border. However, Pakistan Army should get more and more gunship helicopters like T-129 to increase its fire power at Pak-Af and Pak-Ir border.

  • Steve

    Reasonable idea but too complicated and the technology is not that mature, even in the West. Helicopters need to fly very low and pop up to fire missiles. Not possible if they can’t see a thing with optics and fancy HMD. We don’t need altitude in Punjab and Sindh and anyway don’t want to be exposed to the IAF and battlefield missiles our adversary is sure to field. We need mast mounted radar or else be prepared to be virtually blind if Cold Start happens in Punjab or Sindh, both very very dusty terrains. I’m not sure even the new Vipers have mmW radar. It’s a serious matter but I would be very very surprised if the army have not thought about this. I’m sure T-129 was tested in authentic battlefield conditions. Maybe they have tested and think it’s not a big issue. News will seep out eventually.

  • Steve

    The Havoc is a big beast and maybe we cannot afford that many. Probably a numbers/TOT issue. T-129 is neat and nimble, and with proper kit installed will be a great asset. We will be building up numbers of Mi-35 slowly for COIN, and AH-1Z Vipers are on the way. In a few years army aviation will be a serious force. We already fly about 50 Cobras. 🙂

    • Abdul Rashid

      I was under the impression the new attack helicopters will be replacing the Cobras. Even so, if we procure 20 rather than 10 Mi-35s, 15 rather than 9 Vipers and in the longer term add to the initial 30 T-129s, we would have far more capable Army Aviation.

      • Steve

        I’m not sure all Cobras are ready for retirement but I may be wrong. I am sure you are right about incremental building up of numbers. Cobras have been heavily used, and we certainly have very experienced army aviation personnel. I can believe it when senior officers say we have a battle hardened army.

        • Abdul Rashid

          Personally I’d like to see the Cobras retired and replaced with newer, more capable platforms. Otherwise it risks becoming Army Aviation’s Al-Zarrar, a “much improved” Frankenstein’s bolt-on monster that looks more suited to the scrapyard or the Military museum than a 21st century battlefield.

      • jigsaw

        Either the army will be wise to replace them or they’ll replace themselves, along with the men behind the wheels.

        Mi-35 is not truly a gunship. It’s a cross over between a sedan and an SUV, so count it out. When it comes to anti-tank warfare, army will go for T129s and AH1zs.

    • jigsaw

      That said, Pakistan did want to acquire the dual-control Mi-28s (alongside Mi-35s), partially in response to Apache acquisition by Indian army. That plan seems to have faded out now. I don’t think Havoc is a particularly unaffordable machine coming at around 20 million USD per unit, around the same price at T129 I suppose. Also I don’t think Pakistan was ever interested in ToT with havoc or Hind’s purchase; those kind of unrealistic demands usually come from indians – which in majority cases end in failure and loss of time. With T129 it’s alright to talk some co-production and ToT, though don’t expect much out of it.

      I wouldn’t mind if Pakistan would renew its interest in Mi-28s purchase, around 15 in number for eastern border. Let’s not forget Pakistan will be engaged in a two front war in any future event with gunships still being primary weapon of choice on COIN and anti-tank warfare. Your old cobras are fast becoming a piece of trash and if there’s anything that can truly confront Apache’s in terms of capability, it’s the Havoc – albeit i don’t see it happening now.

      • It’s important to note that the ToT talk with the T129 was mutually driven. Turkey has an overhead to distribute and if Pakistan wanted to help out, then it was fair to request co-production and Pakistani industry access to the program. TAI’s CEO visited PAC to offer T129 parts production to Pakistan, not just for PAA T129s but Turkish and third-party exports too (i.e. commercial offsets). In this respect, Turkey will also be able to lower the cost of maintaining the T129 (by sourcing some parts from PAC).

        Regarding the Mi-28NE – and Russian arms in general – I don’t think the Army was expecting ToT in as much as assurance from Moscow that Havoc parts would be available in a timely fashion. Unlike the Mi-171 or even Mi-35 we’re not talking about a prolifically available helicopter where parts are available in dozens of countries.

        Just keep in mind the trouble India had a few years ago maintaining a good operational availability rate for its Su-30MKIs. The spare parts were – back then – imported from Russia. With the Mi-28NE the Army would have to work on a proper MRO strategy that both balances Russian interests and Pakistan’s tight financing.

        If anything such deliberations would take some time and trust, neither of which the Mi-28NE (or Su-35) talk benefits from at the moment. In fact, the Army didn’t even get to test the Mi-28NE in Pakistan, so this is clearly a somewhat open case. ‘Somewhat’ only because the AH-1Z is also a heavyweight design in its own right.

        In an April 2017 interview with Bol Narratives, the PAF ACM said something interesting about the JF-17. While it does not alone fill the capability gap between the IAF and PAF, it at least provides a “core” from which you could build upon.

        That statement and some other discussions with PAF people would suggest that with the “core” in place you can create a strategy where the costlier and more advanced stuff can be bought. However, they would not be bought in large numbers, but the “core” is there to manage most roles, leaving the top-tier focused on very specific missions or tasks that the “core” cannot undertake.

        I feel with the T129 the PA is basically taking a similar approach. Just build a “core” in the attack helicopter fleet that benefits from a domestic supply channel and MRO footprint. Disseminate the capability to as many units as possible. And finally, when the trust and financing is ready, sharpen that core with an edge – i.e. a small number of heavy attack helicopters.

        If not the Mi-28NE the only other plausible heavy attack helicopters would be the Denel Rooivalk Mk2.

  • Basically.

    • jigsaw

      Ignoring the heavy and light weights angle of it, do you see a need for Mi-28s or T129 is sufficient enough to confront Apaches?

      • There’s no compensating a heavyweight’s range, payload and protection with a lightweight. Besides, the PAA didn’t even get a chance to test the Mi-28NE in Pakistan – I’d be surprised if they shelved the question entirely.

        • jigsaw

          But hopefully it comes with all modern tech goodies, so even if two T129 equal an Apache, it’d be a good deal…

  • Lasit

    really wonder what will be the use of these birds in a war situations in South Asia. gone are the days when the mechanized columns came out without area air defence weapons … with QRSAM in play, these hunters will be the hunted

  • Yep but the AH-1Z – like a lot of American equipment – does come with maintenance relief from the onset. For example, the $50-60 m price in the DSCA notice also includes spare parts, though I’m not sure for how long. I’ve had someone familiar with the process say he comes across ones for 10 years, so let’s assume 10 years worth of spares and support. Moreover, the GE T-400 turboshaft engine is very common and even has a production plant in the works in Turkey, so spares for that shouldn’t be too hard to come by via commercial or indirect means. Rotors will be an issue though.

    The Russian promotion pricing doesn’t include those costs. For example, Pakistan paid $150 m for the 4 Mi-35 (MoDP report), but we know the upfront cost of that helicopter isn’t that high – the package likely includes a lot of spare parts. But seeing that unit cost, I highly doubt China’s Su-35 deal (at $80 m a unit) would support that fleet for 10 years. Hence, if the PAF were to ask for an Su-35 deal structured along the 10 (?) year support package of the F-16, the unit cost will well exceed $100 m a unit, possibly touch $150 m a unit if we factor in customization (e.g. linking Chinese AAMs, Pakistani SOWs, etc).

    Hence, overall, I think the costs of a Mi-28NE deal would be in the league of the T129 and Rooivalk Mk2, at least. For 20 helicopters we are probably looking at some kind of amenable financing agreement, be it small on-site cash purchases from units meant for Russia or a loan from Moscow.

    SCO entry is a positive step, but I personally believe it’ll take the medium-term since formal thaw in ties (e.g. 2019-2020) and a string of good-will mulligans to Russia (e.g. Mi-35, Mi-171, et. al) to get them to the table to consider an Mi-28NE sale with the financing.

    That said, in an April 2017 interview with Bol Narratives, ACM Sohail Aman basically said that ‘new fighters are needed’ and ‘we have options in China and Russia.’ So the Pakistani defence establishment seems to still be interested in building bridges that way, it’ll just take time. Remember, it took around 3 years for even the U.S. to openly offer new F-16s to Pakistan after 9/11…

    • jigsaw

      I guess with fighter jets, Aman’s reference was to J-31 in short to medium term. I think Pakistan will opt for J-31 in short to medium term and TFX in long term with JF-17 to be taken into stealthy variants after block 3…

      • Steve

        You mean composites and RAM paint. Airframe can’t change I think.

        • jigsaw

          No. I mean a redesign of JF-17 beyond block 3.

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