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Pakistan, Turkey Sign Deal for 30 Helicopter Gunships

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Asia Defense

Pakistan, Turkey Sign Deal for 30 Helicopter Gunships

Pakistan has officially signed a contract for 30 Turkish-made attack helicopters last week.

Pakistan, Turkey Sign Deal for 30 Helicopter Gunships
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Wiltshirespotter

The Pakistani government and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) have signed a contract for the sale of 30 T129 ATAK multirole attack helicopters for service in the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps (PAAC), according to a statement by Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries.

PAAC will receive 30 T129 ATAK helicopter gunships, along with a package including ammunition, training, spare parts and other logistical support. The press release did not elaborate on the contract value or expected delivery timelines of the rotorcraft.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) first announced the conclusion of an agreement between the two countries in a political manifesto in May. The party document stated that “a very short while ago a contract for the sale of 30 attack helicopters was signed with Pakistan,” without elaborating on details.

The total contract value for the 30 T129 ATAK helicopters, intended to replace the PAACs aging and worn out fleet of AH-1F Cobra helicopter gunships, is estimated at over $1.5 billion making it one of Turkey’s most expensive defense acquisitions in recent decades.

The T129 is a twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role, attack helicopter specifically designed for high-altitude operations in a hot environment and rough terrain. The helicopter gunship is a Turkish-built variant of the Italian A129 Mangusta first introduced into service with the Turkish Army in 2014. As I explained in May:

The T129 is an all-weather helicopter gunship capable of conducting attack, armed reconnaissance, precision-strike and deep strike missions at day and night.

The helicopter is armed with a 20mm turreted gun, up to 76 70mm unguided rockets, 16 70mm laser-guided air-to-surface missiles, and eight UMTAS long range air-to-surface anti-tank missiles (or alternatively AGM-114 Hellfire missiles), in addition to up to eight air-to-air missiles (AIM-92 Stinger, Mistral or AIM-9 Sidewinder).

The T129 is powered by the same U.S.-made twin LHTEC CTS800–4A turboshaft engines that also power the AH-1Z Viper helicopter gunship. In April 2015, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of 15 AH-1Z Vipers, missiles, and communications equipment at an estimated cost of $952 million to Pakistan.

PAAC has been conducting extensive trials with the T129 since 2016. The military also tested the Chinese-made Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) Z-10 Thunderbolt attack helicopters as a possible replacement for the AH-1Fs. As I explained:

At the end, the T129 prevailed over the Z-10. China’s equivalent to the U.S. AH-64 Apache has so far failed to attract an international customer.

(…) [O]ne of the reasons for the lack of export success of the Z-10 could be the helicopter’s two under-powered WZ-9 turboshaft engines, which has been preventing the Z-10 from carrying its maximum payload during military operations. (PAAC deployed Z-10 helicopters during counterinsurgency operations since 2014.)

The Pakistani military has also purchased four Mi-35M attack helicopters from Russia in 2015. Delivery of the helicopters began in April of this year.