TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK

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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)
Produced 2009–present
Number built 65[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]

Development[edit]

Origins[edit]

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.[9] 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.[10][11] 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.[12][13][14]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17][18][19] 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.[20][21] MILDAR was successfully completed development in February 2012.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24][25] 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.[12][26] These T129s are designated T129A, lacking advanced anti-tank missiles. As a result of delays, the T129As entered service in 2014.[7]

Flight testing[edit]

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.[27] 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.[28][29] 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.[30]

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.[31]

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.[32]

HAVELSAN developed a simulator system for the T129 and presented at the International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF) 2017.[33]

Design[edit]

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][34] It has several key improvements over the original A129 inline with the requirements of the Turkish Army.[1][35]

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[2] for multi-purpose missions manufactured by Turkish company Aselsan.[36][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[edit]

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.[37] 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.[38] Delivery of the final EDH-standard T129s took place on 31 July 2015.[39]

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.[citation needed]

Future and potential operators[edit]

T129 at ATAK Paris Air Show, 2017

In 2011, Saudi Arabia asked Turkey to enter a tender to produce attack helicopters for the Saudi Air Force.[40]

In November 2017, it was reported that the Philippines was interested in ordering 23 attack helicopters, such as the T129 or others.[41] In November 2018, it was reported that the Philippines was closer to a decision to procure the T129 ATAK.[42] On 29 November 2018, Chief of Public Affairs Arsenio Andolong of the Philippines' Department of National Defense told Jane's Defence Industry that the T129 was recommended for the Philippine Air Force.[43][44] On 18 December 2018, the Philippines and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with TAI for new T129s for the PAF.[45] A Notice of Award was made in 2019.[46] No orders had been placed as of July 2020 due to problems exporting the T129 with the LHTEC CTS800-4A engine, which is made in the US.[47] The Philippine government still wants to go through with the potential purchase.[47] The PAF reported on 22 May 2021 that some pilots and maintenance crew have been sent to Ankara to be trained by TAI personnel.[48] Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the T129 will be in service Q3 2021.[49]

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.[50][51] However, the AH-64E Apache was chosen in April 2013.[52] Media reports in February 2013 indicated Azerbaijan had ordered 60 T129 helicopters but it was later denied by TAI.[53][54]

In 2017, Pakistan and Turkey were in the final stages of an agreement to buy 30 helicopters, according to news reports.[55][56][57][58] On 25 May 2018, it was reported that Pakistan signed an agreement with Turkey to procure 30 T129s.[59] As of August 2018, the manufacturer had not obtained the necessary export permit from the US Department of Defense for the LHTEC T800-4A engine for the T129, and the manufacturer sought a replacement engine to enable Turkey to complete the transaction.[60] In 2021, Turkey is to start to replacing the LHTEC T800 with its indigenous TEI TS1400 powerplant.[18][19]

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.[61][62]

In January 2019, it was reported that Qatar had signed a preliminary agreement to buy T129s.[63]

In an Iraqi TV broadcast, the Iraqi defense minister announced in August 2021 that Iraq will acquire 12 T129 ATAK helicopters.[64]

Variants[edit]

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.[65] 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 the leading edge 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[edit]

Current operators[edit]

 Turkey

Future operators[edit]

 Pakistan
  • Pakistan Army Aviation Corps (30 T129Bs on order)[73][74] However the contract is in jeopardy as the American government has refused to issue export licenses for the engines. Pakistan has given multiple extensions to the sale to find a resolution. As a result, the TEI TS1400, an indigenous Turkish 1400 shp turboshaft helicopter engine, will be used in Pakistani T129s.[75]
 Philippines
  • Philippine Air Force (6 on order):[76] Unlike the Pakistani T129 deal, the United States issued export licenses for engines made in the US for the Philippine Air Force.[77]

Specifications (T129 ATAK)[edit]

T-129 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
M192 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 hrs
  • 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[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists

References[edit]

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External links[edit]