TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK

Summary

T129 ATAK
BG12-1001 (14662033896).jpg
Role Attack helicopter
National origin Italy/Turkey[1]
Manufacturer Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI)[1]
Design group Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI)[1] /
AgustaWestland (Leonardo from 2017)[2]
First flight 28 September 2009
Introduction 2014
Status In service
Primary users Turkish Army
Gendarmerie General Command
General Directorate of Security (Turkey)
Philippine Air Force
Produced 2009–present
Number built 76 (November 2021)[3]
Developed from Agusta A129 Mangusta

The TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK is a twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform. The T129 was developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI)[1] with partner AgustaWestland.[2] The helicopter is designed for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions in hot and high environments and rough geography in both day and night conditions.[4][5]

The ATAK programme was begun to meet the Turkish Armed Forces' requirements for an attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopter. The T129 is the result of the integration of Turkish-developed avionics, airframe modifications, and weapon systems onto the AgustaWestland A129 airframe, with upgraded engines, transmission and rotor blades. It is in use by the Turkish Army and other services including the Turkish Gendarmerie.[6][7][8] The helicopter has a unit cost of roughly US$50 million.[9]

Development

Origins

T129 ATAK at Farnborough International Airshow 2018, Hampshire

The ATAK programme was begun to meet the Turkish Armed Forces' requirements for an attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopter.[10][unreliable source?] Turkey announced on 30 March 2007 that it had decided to negotiate with AgustaWestland to co-develop and produce 51 (with 40 options) attack helicopters based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta.[11][12] It is to be assembled in Turkey by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) as the T129. On 7 September 2007, a $1.2 billion contract was signed.[13][14][15]

On 22 June 2008, the agreement between TUSAS Aerospace Industries (TAI) and AgustaWestland formally entered into force. Under the agreement, TAI would develop an indigenous mission computer, avionics, weapons systems, self-protection suites and the helmet-mounting cuing systems. Tusaş Engine Industries (TEI) would manufacture the LHTEC CTS800-4N engines under licence.[16] Under the agreement, Turkey has full marketing and intellectual property rights for the T129 platform; Turkey can export also the platform to third party nations, excluding Italy and the United Kingdom.[17] However, the T129's LHTEC CTS800-4N gives the United States a veto over any prospective export sales and so Turkey developed its own TEI TS1400 powerplant.[18][19][20] About 95% of the initial parts of the serial production T129 are manufactured in Turkey.[1]

On 16 July 2007, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK), Meteksan Savunma Sanayii AŞ and Bilkent University formed a consortium to develop an advanced millimetre wave radar (MILDAR), similar to the Longbow and the IAI/ELTA radars, intended to enter service in 2009.[21][22] MILDAR was successfully completed development in February 2012.[23]

In 2007, it was reported that one helicopter will be kept by the Turkish Ministry of Defense and used as a test-bed for systems development. The remaining 50 helicopters will be delivered to the Turkish Army. An optional 40 further T129 helicopters will be produced if necessary.[24] These 50 T129s are to be designated T129B.[7] In November 2010, Turkey ordered an additional nine T129 helicopters to increase its total ordered to 60.[25][26] These T129s were for an urgent Turkish Army operational requirement and was built by TAI for delivery in 2012, one year prior to the delivery of the previously ordered 51 helicopters.[13][27] These T129s are designated T129A, lacking advanced anti-tank missiles. As a result of delays, the T129As entered service in 2014.[7]

Flight testing

TAI T129 "1001" on display at the 2014 Farnborough Air Display

On 28 September 2009, the T129's maiden flight took place when P1 prototype flew at AgustaWestland's facilities in Vergiate, Italy.[28] On 19 March 2010, the first T129 prototype (P1) conducted high altitude hover tests near Verbania, Italy following the completion of several successful test flights. During the hover test, T129 P1 lost its tail rotor at 15,000 feet. Test pilot Cassioli regained enough control to steer away from residential area before crashing; the crew escaped without serious injuries.[29][30] On 17 August 2011, TAI announced the first successful flight of the T129 prototype "P6", the first of three prototypes to be assembled in Turkey.[31]

In 2013, media reports claimed that the first batch of helicopters delivered to Turkish Army for trials did not meet the requirements of the contract, specifically in terms of "vibration, balance, weight". The T129 was nose-heavy; to resolve this, 137 kg was added to the tail, causing the total weight to exceed the specified requirement. The higher weight may decrease the T129's service ceiling, which is detrimental for operating under hot and high conditions, like those found in Southeastern Anatolia. The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries will adjust the contract in accordance. Experts expect weight reductions as development continues.[32]

On 22 April 2014, TAI formally delivered the first serial production T129 ATAK to the Turkish Land Forces.[1] Total nine T129 ATAK helicopters of the first batch delivered to the Turkish Land Forces after completing qualification testing.[33]

HAVELSAN developed a simulator system for the T129 and presented at the International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF) 2017.[34]

Design

T129 ATAK is able to perform high maneuverability

The T129 ATAK is optimized for "hot and high conditions", performance requirements against challenging geographical and environmental conditions in night and day operations.[1][35] It has several key improvements over the original A129 inline with the requirements of the Turkish Army.[1][36]

The T129 ATAK helicopter equipped with Hunter Kaska integrated control system specially designed for the helicopter. The system enables the automatic orientation of target detection and weapons systems to the pilot's line of sight with its high tracking accuracy.[1] The helicopter also equipped with a dedicated electro-optical FLIR system ASELFLIR-300T[37] for multi-purpose missions manufactured by Turkish company Aselsan.[38][1]

The T129 ATAK helicopter also equipped with advanced electronic warfare and countermeasure systems which increase survival capability in the battlefield. The electronic warfare and countermeasure systems of the helicopter features Radar Warning Receiver System (RIAS), Radar Frequency Mixer System (RFKS) and Laser Receiver System (LIAS) in addition to Warning System (FIS), Countermeasure Firing System (KTAS), IR (Infrared), and Countermeasure System.[1]

The T129 ATAK can be used in the anti-armour, armed reconnaissance, ground attack, escort, asymmetrical, fire support and short range anti-aircraft roles. The T129 ATAK is equipped with a 20 mm three-barrel rotary cannon in a nose turret with 500 ammunitions capacity and up to 76 unguided 70mm rockets for close air support. The helicopter is also equipped with up to 8 UMTAS 160 mm long range anti-tank missiles, 16 CIRIT 70 mm missiles, 8 air launched Stinger short range air-to-air missiles.[1]

The T129 ATAK helicopter features also include high maneuverability, low visibility, sound and radar silhouette, high impact resistance and ballistic tolerance.[1]

Operational history

Turkey

T129 ATAK is performing nosedive

In May 2014, the Turkish Army formally inducted the first nine T129s into service; these initial rotorcraft were to a less advanced interim EDH A-model variant, intended to replace some of the ageing AH-1s in use prior to the introduction of the more capable T129B variant to service.[39] On 25 April 2015, a pair of T129s were used in combat for the first time in a counter-terrorism operation in Turkey's Siirt Province.[40] Delivery of the final EDH-standard T129s took place on 31 July 2015.[41]

On 10 February 2018, during the Turkish military operation in Afrin, a T129 of the Turkish Army was shot down by Kurdish YPG anti-aircraft fire in Kırıkhan district of Hatay Province. It was later confirmed by the Turkish Armed Forces and President Erdoğan.[42]

Philippines

When the Philippine Air Force (PAF) re-evaluated its capabilities and performance after the siege of Marawi in 2017 against ISIS-inspired terrorists, it found that the MD-520MG Defender and the newer AW-109E Power armed helicopters did not have sufficient firepower. In 2017, the Philippine government received confirmation from the Jordanian government that they would provide two used Bell AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters, with options for more, subject to the decision of the Jordanian government, which further complicated the decision-making process.[43]

Instead of acquiring more light armed helicopters, the PAF is now interested in purpose-built attack helicopters, even if acquired in smaller quantities.[43] In the end, the PAF's Technical Working Group (TWG) selected the TAI T129 ATAK due to its lower price than its American competitors. TAI was able to offer six T129s for the approved budget, compared to just five AH-1Z Vipers from Bell, or four Boeing AH-64E Apaches from Boeing.[43]

On 18 December 2018, the Philippines and Turkey signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Industry Cooperation that will allow Government-to-Government (G2G) acquisition and production, as well as technical cooperation on defense industry development.[44]

In July 2020, the DND signed a contract for the acquisition of six T129B helicopters from TAI for P13.7 billion, through a government-to-government deal with the Turkish Ministry of Defense.[45]

On 17 May 2021, after years of uncertainty, it was reported by multiple Turkish officials that the United States has approved export licences to Turkey to sell T129 military helicopters to the Philippines.[46][43]

On 22 May 2021, PAF reported that it would send pilots and maintenance crew to Ankara to be trained by TAI personnel.[47][43]

Potential operators

T129 at ATAK Paris Air Show, 2017

Brazil

In September 2018, Brazil showed interest in acquiring T129 with army officials visiting Turkey. In March 2019, ten Brazilian Army pilots received certificates for completing T129 test flights at Forte Ricardo Kirk, Taubaté.[48][49]

Iraq

In an Iraqi TV broadcast, the Iraqi defense minister announced in August 2021 that Iraq will acquire 12 T129 ATAK helicopters.[50]

Pakistan

In 2017, Pakistan indicated that it was interested in possibly purchasing the T129 ATAK for the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps (PAAC), as a replacement to their ageing Bell AH-1F Cobra gunships; the PAAC had extensively tested the T129 and the Z-10ME in 2016.[51][52]

In May 2018, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) announced that Pakistan had purchased a batch of 30 T129 helicopters for US$1.5 billion, which Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) confirmed in July.[53]

Pakistan's purchase of the T129 was riddled with issues; the United States Department of Defense (DoD) refused to issue the export-license of the LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines necessary for the ordered gunships, owing to diplomatic issues between the United States and Turkey.[54] In 2020, Pakistan granted a one-year extension to TAI, to allow the latter to persuade the DoD to issue the required export-license; TAI also approached its sister-company, Tusaş Engine Industries, to develop an indigenous engine for the T129, as a possible replacement for the T800-4A.[55] TAI also hired a U.S-based lobbying firm, Capitol Counsel, to lobby U.S lawmakers to clear the Pakistani deal.[56] In 2021, Pakistan granted a six-month extension to TAI, in a further bid to resolve the issue.[55]

In January 2022, multiple reports of Pakistan cancelling the deal for the 30 T129s, in favor of the Z-10ME emerged.[57][58] However, the Pakistani military's public relations wing - the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), denied the reports, stating that the deal had not been terminated.[59][60]

Qatar

In January 2019, it was reported that Qatar had signed a preliminary agreement to buy T129s.[61]

Saudi Arabia

In 2011, Saudi Arabia asked Turkey to enter a tender to produce attack helicopters for the Saudi Air Force.[62]

Failed bids

Morocco

On 31 July 2021, it was reported that Morocco was in the "advanced stage of negotiation" with Turkey for the purchase of 22 T129 ATAK helicopters.[63] Additional sources claimed previous negotiations were suspended in 2018 due to US sanctions.[64][needs update]

South Korea

In January 2013, a media report stated that South Korea's attack helicopter competition included the T129 in the final three bidders with the Bell AH-1Z Viper and the Boeing AH-64 Apache.[65][66] However, the AH-64E Apache was chosen in April 2013.[67]

Variants

T129A EDH (Erken Duhul Helikopteri or Early Delivery Helicopter)
T129A is the "combat support" version equipped with a 20 mm gatling gun and rounds and can carry 70 mm (2.75 in) rockets; nine T129As have been ordered.[68] Six helicopters have been delivered to the Turkish Army. The T129As are to be upgraded to the T129B standard.[7]
T129B
T129B is the "multi-role" version equipped with electronic warfare systems. 51 helicopters are to be produced, with one to be used as a weapons testbed. The T129B is armed with a 20 mm gatling gun and can carry a payload of maximum 8 UMTAS ATGMs, 16 Cirit missiles, 8 air launched Stinger, 76 70 mm (2.75 in) unguided rockets.[4]

Operators

 Turkey
 Philippines

Specifications (T129 ATAK)

TAI-AgustaWestland T129 orthographical image.svg
Left to right: 70 mm unguided rocket pod for 19 rockets, 2 air launched Stinger, launcher pod for 4 Cirit missiles, 4 UMTAS ATGMs
M197 20 mm three-barrel rotary cannon and ASELFLIR-300T electro-optical FLIR system

Data from Turkish Aerospace Industries[4][1]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 14.54 m (47 ft 8 in)
  • Height: 3.4 m (11 ft 2 in)
  • Max takeoff weight: 5,056 kg (11,147 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × LHTEC CTS800-4A turboshaft, 1,014 kW (1,360 hp) each
  • Main rotor diameter: 11.9 m (39 ft 1 in)
  • Main rotor area: 111.22 m2 (1,197.2 sq ft)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 281 km/h (175 mph, 152 kn) ("maximum cruise speed")
  • Range: 537 km (334 mi, 290 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 1,000 km (620 mi, 540 nmi)
  • Endurance: 3 hr
  • Service ceiling: 4,572 m (15,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 13.26 m/s (2,610 ft/min) , vertical climb rate 7.3 m/s

Armament

Avionics

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists

References

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External links

  • TAI T129 ATAK page
  • Leonardo T129 page