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ATAK (Turkish Attack and Reconnaissance Helicopter)

T129 ATAK is the result of the integration of nationally developed high-tech avionic equipment and weapon systems on to the combat proven AgustaWestland A129 airframe, with upgraded engines, transmission and rotor blades. Optimized for "hot & high" environments, TAI claims the T129 is the most efficient Attack Helicopter in its class.

In May of 1997, the Turkish Military issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) for the purchase of 145 attack helicopters. The Turkish Army needed a fully integrated, low Life Cycle Cost advanced technology multi-role Attack and Reconnaissance helicopter system to provide enhanced mission effectiveness by increased lethality, flexibility, growth capability, mobility, supportability, availability, maintainability, reliability and survivability with increased operator and maintainer efficiency.

Turkish Attack and Reconnaissance Helicopter was designated as ATAK (Turkish Attack and Reconnaissance Helicopter). ATAK was to perform both attack and reconnaissance missions and have both Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground combat capability comprised in one platform. Configuration change is desired to be accomplished at Aviation Unit Level. ATAK was to have limited capability (landing, take-off, refueling, re-supply) for operations from ships. Air vehicle was to have twin engines, multi-bladed rotor, two tandem flight stations, be single pilot operable from either crew station. Sufficient endurance and range to accomplish mission profiles with internal fuel was required. Low altitude, high-speed flight, Nap-Of-Earth (NOE) flight and autonomous search andtarget acquisition capability was desired.

ATAK will be located in attack battalions and training fleet. Total number of attack battalions is 5. In each attack battalion, there will be 27 helicopters. In training fleet the number of helicopters located is 10. ATAK shall provide attack battalions with highly mobile and lethal attack capability against personnel, ground and air targets. Mission shall be conducted during day/night extreme/adverse weather partially in NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) environment.

The $3.5-$4.5 billion deal brought bids from five companies:

  1. Boeing (USA) AH-64D "Apache Longbow"
  2. Bell-Textron (USA) AH-1Z "KingCobra"
  3. Kamov (Russia) Ka-50-2 "Erdogan"
  4. Agusta (Italy) A129-I "Mangusta"
  5. Eurocopter (France-Germany) UHU-HAS 'Tiger"

In July of 2000, Turkey announced its decision to buy Bell Helicopter's AH-1Z King Cobra. The major difference between the USMC version of AH-1Z and the Turkish version KingCobra was the Targeting and Fire Control System. Bell Helicopter Textron chose Lockheed Martin to develop and build a new targeting system, the Target Sight System (TSS). The TSS contained Lockheed Martin's 3-5 micrometers midwave staring array FLIR. On the other hand, the Turkish Secretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) chose Aselsan ASELFLIR-300T that contains an 8-12 micrometers longwave scanning second-generation FLIR. The common disadvantage of both targeting systems was the lack of the ability toengage more than one target at a time.

Angered by the delays in their provision and attached conditions, in November 1996 Turkey cancelled its $150 million order for 10 US Super Cobra helicopter gunships. The provision of the gunships, which Turkey needed to combat the separatist Kurdish rebels in the southeast, had been held up by the Clinton administration for more than a year. To date, a total of 10 AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters had been purchased under two separate contracts worth $135 million, signed in 1990 and 1993 respectively with Bell-Textron.

Italy’s Agusta Westland and Turkish Aviation Industry (TAI) in 2007 signed $2 billion contract with the SSM to produce 51 attack helicopters for the Turkish army. An option for 78 other helicopters is available. As of 2012 a prototype helicopter was to be produced in 2013. As of 2008 the ATAK Program was in System Requirement Review (SRR) phase. After defining the requirements, it concentrated on the preliminary design. It was planned to have the initial flight tests in order to test the engine modifications before the end of 2008. Turkey's Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI) and Italy's AgustaWestland were contracted for co-production of 50 and optional 40 units of T129 combat helicopters

As of early 2009 Turkey only had around six AH-1s operational. As of early 2009 the first of the jointly produced A 129s were slated to arrive in 2013, so there was some interesting in buying four or five AH-1W (Cobra Whiskey) helos as an interim solution to support the current fleet in Army inventory.

Turkey’s TUSAS Aerospace Industries, the prime contractor, and Italy’s Agusta Westland, a subcontractor will jointly produce the aircraft under a 2007 agreement signed for the purchase of 51 helicopters for the Turkish Land Forces. With the signature of the ATAK Program, Turkey was in the process of producing 50 T-129 ATAK helicopters in Turkey, with the first ATAK helicopter is planned to be operational by 2013. The helicopter will be equipped with avionic and weapon systems designed and produced indigenously and the mission computer and targeting, navigation, communication and electronic warfare systems will be developed and produced by ASELSAN, a leading Turkish defence company.

TAI is the Prime Contractor of the ATAK Program, whereas ASELSAN and AgustaWestland are the subcontractors of TAI. As the Prime Contractor of the ATAK Program, TAI shall be responsible to ensure that the performance of the T129 ATAK Helicopter meets the operational requirements of the Turkish Land Forces Command. The helicopters will be manufactured at Turkey's Center of Aerospace, TAI. The T129 ATAK Helicopter shall be equipped with not only modern and proven weapon systems, but also avionic and weapon systems designed and produced indigenously. The mission computer and targeting, navigation, communication and electronic warfare systems will be developed and produced by ASELSAN, which is one of the leading defense companies of Turkey. The high performance new engine, Automatic Flight Control System and Air Vehicle Monitoring System will be integrated by AgustaWestland, one of the global leaders in rotorcraft industry.

The development phase would be realized through the cooperation of local defense and aerospace companies resulting in an "independent" product, which can be modernized in every respect during its life time of 30 years. Beginning from the effectivity of the contract, the planned duration of the ATAK Program is 114 months, and the first T129 ATAK Helicopter will be delivered in the 60th month. With the Collaboration Agreement, signed between TAI and AgustaWestland, let alone having the right to use and administer the intellectual property of the T129 ATAK Helicopter, TAI shall be the sole source for its work share under the ATAK program for all potential future world wide sales of the T129 ATAK Helicopter. The Collaboration Agreement also provides TAI with the right to sell and market the T129 ATAK Helicopter worldwide.

On 17 August 2011 Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) announced the successful first flight of the first T129 prototype, produced at TAI’s facilities in Ankara, Turkey. The first flight, conducted by TAI’s test pilots, of T129 “P6” prototype helicopter has timely and successfully been completed at TAI’s facilities in Akinci (Ankara).

On Oct. 28, 2011 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Turkey for three AH-1W SUPER COBRA Attack Helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $111 million. The Government of Turkey has requested a possible sale of three AH-1W SUPER COBRA Attack Helicopters, seven T700-GE-401 engines (six installed and one spare), inspections and modifications, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics personnel support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost was $111 million. These aircraft would be sold from the United States Marine Corps’ (USMC) inventory.

Participating in Bahrain International Air Show 2014 (BIAS) under the umbrella of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), in January 2014 Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI)'s "T129 ATAK" Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter performed a flight demonstration on the first day of the exhibition. The flight demonstration drew attention by many high level executives as well as the Royal Prince of Bahrain HRH Shiekh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Pakistan was the first country to purchase T129s by signing a $1.5 billion deal with Ankara for the delivery of 30 attack helicopters produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries and Italian AgustaWestland. Because of a diplomatic row between Turkey and United States last year over the almost two-year detention of an American pastor, the deal between Turkey and Pakistan was reportedly pushed back six months as the U.S. Department of Defense denied Turkey an export license required for the US-made LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines meant for the aircraft.

It was then announced in December 2018 that the Philippine Air Force had chosen the T129 ATAK as the assault helicopter. The Philippines had been searching for an attack helicopter for a while, Turkish Aerospace Industries' (TAI) Corporate Marketing and Communications head Tamer Özmen said, while talking about the negotiations conducted for the sale of the ATAK helicopters to the Philippines. Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that the Philippine Air Force had chosen the ATAK T129, adding that their budget could afford eight to 10 units.

In January 2019 it was reported that Qatar was another country that chose the attacking helicopter T129 ATAK after Pakistan and the Philippines. However, the news was not verified by the Defense Industry Presidency. Qatar signed a preliminary agreement with Qatar Armed Forces to launch Qatar Armed Forces. No information on deal was reported in the news.

The Philippines’ Air Force took delivery of two Türkiye-made T-129 Tactical Reconnaissance and Attack (ATAK) helicopters in a ceremony at Col Jesus Villamor air base on 06 April 2022. Delfin Lorenzana, the Philippine secretary of national defence, called it a "wonderful day" for the Philippine Air Force. "I am very happy that the dream of the Philippine Air Force has come true, but we still have a long way to go to fully equip our home," he concluded. Ismail Demir, President of Türkiye’s Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) expressed happiness at the historical moment between nations. The procurement is part of a larger strategy by Manila to bolster its defence ahead of escalating tensions with China, especially in the South China Sea.

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Page last modified: 10-04-2022 21:14:54 ZULU