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Pakistan Defence Review: Updates

Turkish Aerospace Says Pakistan’s T129 Program is Still On

Turkish Aerospace updated reporters on the status of Pakistan’s order of 30 T129 ATAK attack helicopters.[1] Currently, Turkish Aerospace is waiting for the release of third-party export permits for Pakistan. The T129 ATAK is powered by two LHTEC (Light Helicopter Turbine Engine Company) CTS800 turboshaft engines.

LHTEC is a joint-company of Honeywell in the US and the UK’s Rolls-Royce. Since the engine falls under ITAR, it requires permission from Washington ahead of release. Turkish Aerospace has yet to secure that permit; however, the company is confident that it will receive it.[2]

It is unclear if there is an actual ‘hold’ on the license. Granted, US-Turkish relations are not their strongest today, but there are no sanctions on either Turkey or Pakistan to prevent the sale.

In fact, this could be a consequence of the unique circumstances of the sale. Turkish Aerospace sought to deliver within months; generally, programs of this nature require years for initial delivery to materialize.[3]

As noted in an earlier Quwa Premium article, it appears that the Pakistani T129 contract is feeding off the same production units intended for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). In other words, the first batch for the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps (PAA) would have gone to the TSK instead.

Conversely, if the batch is delivered to the PAA, then the TSK’s deliveries will be delayed and the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) will earn an additional sale.

This dynamic protects both sides. Turkey does not need to offer Pakistan a loan per se; rather, if Pakistan has the cash, it will get the helicopters. If not, then there is no loss for Turkey in terms of unused or useless inventory – this will go to the TSK as originally intended.

In other words, there are no T129-related loans for Pakistan. It is a layaway arrangement that gives foreign customers the option to buy TSK units (at least if they cannot front an advance payment). In its statements to the media, the OEM confirmed this (by stating that the PAA units are from TSK batches).

Of course, there were other indications of this as well.

Earlier, Defence Turkey had learned that the Pakistani T129 program involves different subvariants. Each subvariant intended for the PAA aligned with Turkish Aerospace’s production plans for the TSK. For example, the PAA is to induct the same electronic warfare (EW)-equipped T129B model as the TSK.[4]

Besides pooling or integrating with the TSK’s procurement, the approach also confers Pakistan with some flexibility. Basically, it can buy T129s in small batches when it has cash on hand, and even induct them in a relatively short timeframe. However, it also confines Pakistan to only select the variant that the OEM is manufacturing at the time; if the T129 is supplanted by the ATAK-2, the PAA must acquire the ATAK-2.

Bell Helicopter is Storing the 12 AH-1Z Destined for Pakistan

Although it signed a contract for the sale of 12 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to Bahrain, Bell Helicopters told reporters that it was not re-selling the AH-1Zs it built for Pakistan to Bahrain. Rather, Bahrain will be getting completely different aircraft, while Pakistan’s AH-1Zs will be stored.[5]

Unlike the Peace Gate III/IV F-16s of the 1990s, Pakistan’s AH-1Z contract is not in limbo due to sanctions, but Pakistan has opted to restrict the payment of those helicopters – and other new US arms – to Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Coalition Support Funds (CSF). But the White House froze both CSF and FMF tranches earmarked for Pakistan, thus preventing Bell Helicopters from getting paid.

Currently, Bell Helicopters believes that deliveries are still doable, though US-Pakistani ties would need to take a positive turn and reinstate CSF and FMF streams to Pakistan.

However, the bigger story might be the implicit confirmation of Pakistan opting not to spend its own funds on purchasing US arms. This would be significant. First, it means that Pakistan is no longer a major market for big-ticket American weapons, such as combat aircraft. Second, it sets an organizational-level distrust of US suppliers and the US government in the respective leaderships of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

That said, the reluctance to buy US arms does not mean that Pakistan’s military leadership will antagonize Washington. Many third-party military systems are ITAR-restricted, especially in terms of engines and to an extent electronics and other subsystems. The T129 is a perfect example of this; thus, Pakistan will still pursue US technology, but through non-US OEMs and platforms.

The Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy are Reportedly Interested in the Anka UAV

According to Turkish Aerospace, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the Pakistan Navy (PN) are reportedly interested in procuring the Anka unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). [6]

It is unclear if this would be an off-the-shelf purchase or – be it in addition to off-the-shelf aircraft or in co-production – integrate with Project Azm’s medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV program. But a potential joint-purchase of a common platform by the PN and PAF could involve many UAVs.

Earlier, we were skeptical of rumours of Pakistan procuring Wing Loong II from Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG). In fact, Alan Warnes dismissed the rumours, but besides that, we questioned the value of such a deal, especially for Project Azm (manufacturing the Wing Loong II under license would take away from Project Azm in terms of financial, capacity and human resources).

The same concern stands for the Anka. However, there is one variable that could make the Anka a more suitable program. Where the Chinese have made immense investment in UAV technology and economies of scale to justify its research and development (R&D) overhead and continue R&D, the Turks do not.

The Turks need additional funding and economies of scale to compete with China on the UAV market and, in turn, continue advancing UAV development. Pakistan’s constraints in this case are more pronounced; as a result, Turkey and Pakistan could make for suitable co-development and production partners.

In other words, Pakistan could have the option of binding Project Azm’s MALE UAV to the Anka as well as Turkish Aerospace’s future UAV development. However, this would mean sharing risks, funding as well as design and production work with Turkish companies (and vice-versa).

Alternatively, this could be an off-the-shelf similar to the T129, i.e., in small batches by drawing on UAVs meant for the TSK. If so, this would either signal that Project Azm is slated for the long-term, or that PAF and PN decision-makers are not yet convinced about Kamra’s UAV efforts.

IDEAS 2018 Coverage

If all goes well, Quwa will be at the 2018 International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) on the 28th and 29th of November. Our goal is to attend each of the conferences on those days as well as engage with as many vendors in attendance at the event. We will try posting snippets of the event next-week, but the majority of our IDEAS coverage will come through a report, which will be available to all Quwa Premium subscribers on Friday, 07 December 2018. However, in the lead-up to that, we will publish articles about the event, so you will be informed, but the report will carry most of what we learn.

[1] Alan Warnes. “Pakistan’s T129 deliveries ready despite delays.” Shephard Media. 20 November 2018. URL: (Last Accessed: 24 November 2018).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Pakistan Chief of General Staff – T129 ATA Show Flight Tracked at Farnborough Air Show.” Defence Turkey. 16 July 2018. URL: (Last Accessed: 13 July 2018).

[5] Alan Warnes. “Bahrain announces AH-1Z Buy”. Shephard Media. 15 November 2018. URL: (Last Accessed: 24 November 2018).

[6] Alan Warnes. “Pakistan’s T129 deliveries ready despite delays.” Shephard Media. 20 November 2018. URL: (Last Accessed: 24 November 2018).

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