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Analysis: Pakistan’s T129 ATAK Purchase
October 23, 2018

Analysis: Pakistan’s T129 ATAK Purchase

On 13 July 2018, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) signed a much-anticipated deal for 30 T129 ATAK attack helicopters from Turkish Aerospace and Turkey’s Defence Industries Undersecretariat (SSB). The deal, widely believed to be worth $1.5 billion US, is a “large contract package … [comprising] of logistics, spare parts, training and ammunition.”[1] The T129 contract is slated for completion in five years.[2]

For Turkey, the T129 sale to Pakistan represents Turkey’s single largest defence export to-date (followed by a $1 billion US sale of four MILGEM Ada corvettes to the Pakistan Navy). For Pakistan, the T129 will be a significant qualitative upgrade over its current fleet of roughly 40 AH-1F/S Cobras, which have served as the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps’ (PAA) mainstay attack helicopter since their induction in the 1980s.

Contract Details

According to Turkish Aerospace’s General manager Temel Kotil, the PAA will begin receiving its T129s in “less than a year.”[3] Based on the five-year project timeline, it appears that the PAA will induct its ATAK on an incremental basis, i.e. in small (e.g. 5-6 aircraft) annual batches. The first 10 ATAKs for the PAA will be T129B Block-Is, which will be similarly configured as the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) Block-I.[4] The next 20 will be Block-IIs which, again, will be configured along similar lines as the TSK’s Block-IIs.[5]

The T129B Block-I is a baseline configuration equipped with an electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) turret, an integrated avionics suite, and semi-active laser-homing (SALH) anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) as well as 70 mm SALH air-to-ground rockets. The Roketsan UMTAS (Mizrak) ATGM offers a range of 500 m to 8,000 m.[6] Supporting weapons include the Roketsan CİRİT, a 2.75” air-to-ground rocket (range: 1,500 m to 8,000 m) and a single 20 mm nose-mounted cannon.

The onboard electronics suite also includes Aselsan’s AVCI Helmet Integrated Cueing System, which enables the pilot to direct the EO/IR turret for target identification and tracking.[7] In addition, the T129B Block-I is also equipped with a self-protection suite comprising of a missile warning system, a chaff and flare countermeasure system and directed infrared countermeasure system.[8] It is also includes the MXF-484 and 9651 V/UHF (Very and Ultra-High Frequency) radio systems (produced by Aselsan).[9]

The T129B Block-II retains the Block-I’s configuration, but it also features an electronic warfare (EW) suite equipped with a radio-frequency jammer, radar warning receiver (RWR), laser warning receiver (LWR) and Aselsan’s 9681 V/UHF (Very and Ultra-High Frequency) airborne radio terminals.[10] It should be noted that Turkish Aerospace and Meteksan are also testing a millimetric wave radar – i.e. Meteksan MILDAR – from the T129, but it is unclear if the MILDAR will be an option for the current ATAK or the future ATAK-2.[11]

Though a crude assessment, the PAA’s switchover from the Block-I to the Block-II would occur after two deliveries, i.e. two years into its procurement program. Firstly, this would imply that the PAA is essentially procuring its helicopters in alignment with the TSK, i.e. adopt the variant in production for the TSK and, in turn, free Turkish Aerospace to concentrate its facilities on a single variant. Should Pakistan opt for more Turkish Aerospace attack helicopters, it would choose the model in production at that time.

Secondly, although the deal is believed to involve a credit or loan mechanism, the incremental batches suggest that deliveries to Pakistan are still contingent on cash payments. The Turkish government’s ‘loan’ is channelled to Turkish Aerospace directly, which will manufacture the helicopters. Once Pakistan issues a cash payment, Turkish Aerospace will deliver them. However, should Pakistan lapse in a payment and/or opt to remove a batch, the risk to Turkey is limited. Yes, it would have surplus stocks, but seeing that the PAA’s T129s are identically configured as those of the TSK, the TSK could absorb them as part of its order.

Pakistan’s New Mainstay Attack Helicopter

Currently, the PAA’s mainstay attack helicopter is the AH-1F/S Cobra, which had either been acquired in the 1980s or bought surplus or second-hand from the U.S. and Jordan following 9/11…

End of Excerpt (633/1,616 words)
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[1] Press Release. “Pakistan – Signatures for 30 ATAK helicopters moved.” Savunma Sanayii Başkanı. Government of Turkey. 13 July 2018. URL: https://www.ssm.gov.tr/Website/contentList.aspx?PageID=1235&LangID=1.” (Last Accessed: 18 July 2018).

[2]  “Turkish attack helicopter deal with Pakistan worth around $1.5 billion: sources.” Reuters. 13 July 2018. URL: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-pakistan-defence/turkish-attack-helicopter-deal-with-pakistan-worth-around-1-5-billion-sources-idUSKBN1K30RN (Last Accessed: 13 July 2018).

[3] Helen Haxell. “Farnborough 2018: Turkish Aerospace expanding helicopter portfolio.” Shephard Media. 17 July 2018. URL: https://www.shephardmedia.com/news/defence-helicopter/farnborough-2018-turkish-aerospace-expanding-helic/ (Last Accessed: 13 July 2018).

[4] “Pakistan Chief of General Staff – T129 ATA Show Flight Tracked at Farnborough Air Show.” Defence Turkey. 16 July 2018. URL: http://www.defenceturkey.com/tr/icerik/pakistan-genelkurmay-2-baskani-farnborough-air-show-da-t129-atak-gosteri-ucusunu-izledi-3113#.W1UxU9JKiUn (Last Accessed: 13 July 2018).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Promotional Material. “UMTAS Long Range Anti-Tank Missile System.” Roketsan. URL: http://www.roketsan.com.tr/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/UMTAS-ING-email1.pdf (Last Accessed: 16 July 2018).

[7] Promotional Material. “AVCI: Helmet Integrated Cueing System.” Aselsan. URL: https://www.aselsan.com.tr/en-us/capabilities/cpb13/Documents/AVCI_ENG.pdf (Last Accessed: 16 July 2018)

[8] Cem Akalın. “Turkey Ramps up T129 “Atak” Attack Helicopter Production.” Defence Turkey. Volume 12. Issue 78. 2017. URL: http://www.defenceturkey.com/en/content/turkey-ramps-up-t129-atak-attack-helicopter-production-2841#.W1aBRdJKiUk (Last Accessed: 13 July 2018).

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Pakistan Chief of General Staff – T129 ATA Show Flight Tracked at Farnborough Air Show.” Defence Turkey. 16 July 2018. URL: http://www.defenceturkey.com/tr/icerik/pakistan-genelkurmay-2-baskani-farnborough-air-show-da-t129-atak-gosteri-ucusunu-izledi-3113#.W1UxU9JKiUn (Last Accessed: 13 July 2018).

[11] Cem Akalın. “Turkey Ramps up T129 “Atak” Attack Helicopter Production.” Defence Turkey. Volume 12. Issue 78. 2017. URL: http://www.defenceturkey.com/en/content/turkey-ramps-up-t129-atak-attack-helicopter-production-2841#.W1aBRdJKiUk (Last Accessed: 13 July 2018).

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