Pakistan May Sign T129 ATAK Attack Helicopter Contract Soon
May 23, 2018

Pakistan May Sign T129 ATAK Attack Helicopter Contract Soon

Speaking to Turkey’s state-owned TRT Haber news channel in early May[1], Turkey’s Undersecretary of Defence Industries (SSM) Dr. İsmail Demir stated that a much-anticipated contract for the sale of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T129 ATAK attack helicopters to Pakistan could be inked in the coming weeks.

“In Pakistan, we will have important developments related to the export of ships and attack helicopters. God Willing, we will have news about the ATAK helicopter sale to Pakistan next week”, Demir told TRT.[2]

In subsequent statements to TRT, Demir outlined that the Pakistani programs – which include both the ATAK and the MILGEM Ada-class anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvette – were contingent on a credit-line to back both deals. The MILGEM line has been finalized, while a loan for the ATAK is in the process of being made or finalized.[3] However, it appears that credit has tentatively been settled, the matter is now proceeding to inking the contracts and bringing the programs to fruition.

Pakistan reportedly began contract negotiations for 30 T129s in June 2017.[4] Pakistan’s Minister of Defence Production (MoDP) confirmed the negotiations in November 2017, stating that the issue was “90 percent complete”.[5] The program also appears to include some transfer-of-technology.

At the 2018 IQPC Military Helicopter Conference, the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps’ (PAA) Major Gen. Nasir D. Shah stated that depot-level maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) would be a must for the PAA’s next mainstay attack helicopter.[6] However, TAI reportedly offered component manufacturing work to Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) as well.[7]

Building High-Altitude Close Air Support Capabilities

The PAA had evaluated the T129 in June 2016. In addition to testing the helicopter’s endurance and status in high-temperature environments, the PAA also flew the ATAK at 14,000 ft to test its high-altitude flight.[8] It appears that one of the reasons for pursuing the T129 was to build a high-altitude attack capability. The current AH-1F/S fleet is insufficient for the task, with the PAA citing “creaks and shakes” as an issue when flying the legacy Cobras at those altitudes.[9] In fact, Maj. Gen. Shah himself outlined that the Cobras could not fly above 8,000 ft, thus indicating that the PAA required an attack helicopter that could do so.[10] Quwa Premium has an in-depth look at the ATAK evaluation and selection process in February’s Monthly Report.

Interestingly, the ATAK would essentially complete an ongoing effort to modernize the high-altitude force: the PAA has already switched from operating the SA315 Lama to the Airbus Helicopters H125M[11], which it in fact employed for a high-altitude search-and-rescue (SAR) mission in January 2018.[12] The PAA has also procured at least one Leonardo AW139 utility helicopter, which was also – as part of the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) trials – tested for its high-altitude performance.[13]

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[1] Interview with Dr. İsmail Demir, Undersecretary of Defence Industries (SSM). 09 May 2018. Statements are in Turkish. URL: https://youtu.be/oAYODDYJJGA?t=6m30s

[2] Ibid.

[3] “The eyes of the world are in the Turkish defense industry”. TRT Haber. 08 May 2018. URL: http://www.trthaber.com/haber/turkiye/dunyanin-gozu-turk-savunma-sanayisinde-364390.html (Last Accessed: 10 May 2018).

[4] Alan Warnes. “Pakistan on verge of ordering TAI T129 ATAK.” Mönch Verlagsgesellschaft mbH. 22 June 2017. URL: http://www.monch.com/mpg/news/air/1746-pakatak.html (Last Accessed: 10 May 2018).

[5] Sena Guler. “Pakistan looks for helicopters, naval ships from Turkey.” Anadolu Agency. 25 November 2017. URL: http://aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/pakistan-looks-for-helicopters-naval-ships-from-turkey/979403 (Last Accessed: 12 January 2018).

[6] Gareth Jennings. “Pakistan evaluating new attack helicopter options”. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 31 January 2018. URL: http://www.janes.com/article/77493/pakistan-evaluating-new-attack-helicopter-options (Last Accessed: 10 May 2018).

[7] Alan Warnes. 01 June 2017. Twitter. URL: https://twitter.com/warnesyworld/status/870358168710369281 Last accessed: 21 January 2018.

[8]  “TAI T129 ATAK at the Himalayas.” MSI Turkish Defence Review. November 2016. Issue 31.

[9] Alan Warnes. “Pakistan Army Aviation: Special Report 2013”. Tangent Link. 2013

[10] Jennings. “Pakistan evaluating new attack helicopter options”. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 2018.

[11] Warnes. Tangent Link. 2013.

[12] Press Release. “Two H125s help rescue climber in Pakistan.” Airbus Helicopters. 07 February 2018. URL: http://www.airbus.com/newsroom/news/en/2018/02/h125-helicopters-help-in-rescue-of-climber-in-pakistan.html (Last Accessed: 14 February 2018).

[13] “The AW139 completed the hot & high tests in Pakistan.” Leonardo (via HeliPress). 26 July 2016. URL: http://www.helipress.it/schede-1761-l_aw139_ha_completato_i_test_hotehigh_in_pakistan (Last Accessed: 16 February 2018).

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