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Update to Turkey’s efforts to sell T-129 helicopters to Pakistan
September 21, 2019
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.