T-129 ATAK makes its mark

Those who visited the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) chalet at the Farnborough International Airshow mid July, saw nothing but proud faces. Subject of that pride was the TAI T-129 ATAK Multirole Combat Helicopter, developed and produced in Turkey and making its first appearance at Farnborough. The new attack helicopter has several armed forces interested, TAI said.

First of all, at Farnborough the twin seat T-129 had spectators interested by its menacing looks and short but effective air display. The new attack helicopter does not hide its roots, as the shape of the Italian AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta helicopter can clearly be recognized in the T-129. TAI and AgustaWestland partnered up in a bid to provide the Turkish armed forces with a new attack helicopter, picking up where development of the A129 had halted. The bid proved successful, as Turkey ordered 59 helicopters with nine delivered by April 2014.

First flight of the T-129 was in August 2011. The helicopter is powered by two 1,360 horsepower LHTEC T800 engines, the same engines that once drove that famous attack helicopter that never really was – the RAH-66 Comanche – and now also drive the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat. Mission system, avionics, rotors and airframe were all extensively renewed.

Hot & high
The adaptations make the T-129 very suited for the hot and high conditions that are very much part of operations in Turkey, says Tamer Özmen of TAI. The T-129 is also capable of carrying a wide range of weapons, including the standard 20mm turreted gun, up to eight anti-tank guided missiles, and a range of guided and unguided rockets, air-to-air missiles or gunpods.

An air display was part of the TAI presence at Farnborough.  (Image © Dennis Spronk)
An air display was part of the TAI presence at Farnborough. (Image © Dennis Spronk)


Cost effective
The T-129 is designed for maximum interoperability, including cockpits that are 95 percent similar, thus reducing training requirements. “Our aim is to provide the most cost effective attack helicopter on the market”, says Özmen. “We can tailor the T-129 to the needs of each customer.”

With the Turkish order for 59 helicopters, TAI has enough work to keep production going until 2020, but export orders are very much being explored. The T-129 was on show earlier in 2014 at the Bahrain Airshow and the ILA show in Berlin, also attracting attention from various middle eastern and Asian countries. TAI will not name specific potential customers, but Bahrain, the Philippines, Jordan, Pakistan and Gambia are rumoured to show interest.

A panoramic shot of the T-129 at Farnborough. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A panoramic shot of the T-129 at Farnborough. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Meanwhile, TAI is continuing development of a five ton utility helicopter that will eventually replace the 150 or so Bell UH-1 Huey helicopters in the Turkish army and air force. “We are now in the preliminary design phase”, says Özmen as the T-129 prepares to take off for an air display at Farnborough, being the only helicopter to do so during the trade days at this years show and thereby clearly making its mark. Faces were rightfully proud at TAI.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

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Out-of-this-world-appearance: the Turkish Aerospace T-129 ATAK. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
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