Tag Archives: ATAK

“T-129 perfect outsider in Malaysian attack chopper deal”

The Turkish Aerospace Industries / AgustaWestland T-129 ATAK might be the unexpected outsider to win the Malaysian Army deal for six attack helicopters. While many experts bet on the AH-64D Apache, the Bell AH-1Z Viper or the Airbus Helicopters EC665 Tigre to make it to the Asian country, the T-129 might just be what Kuala Lumpur seeks to supplement its AgustaWestland AW109s it is currently arming.

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The TAI T-129 ATAK had the distinction of being the only helicopter in the air display during the 2014 Farnborough airshow.  (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Featured image: The TAI T-129 ATAK had the distinction of being the only helicopter in the air display during the 2014 Farnborough airshow. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

“The armed forces are to acquire six attack helicopters to reinforce operations in Esszone, as soon as possible,” Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri announced on 19 December 2014. The Esszone is the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone): an area covering the districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau. It is located on the island of Kalimantan that Malaysia shares with Indonesia and Brunei. Armed rebel groups from the Sulu Archipelago invaded the eastern part of it in March 2013.

Miniguns
As an intermediate solution to beef up its fighting capabilities Malaysia’s Army Air Corps are mounting 10 newly purchased General Electric M134D Hybrid Miniguns on its ten AgustaWestland AW109s. By not ordering a 11th of these Gatling-type guns, the faith of the 11th AW109LOH the Army received might have been sealed. This chopper was badly damaged during a crash on 30 January 2014. The AW109s currently make up the complete air fleet of the army.

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

Labuan Airbase
Officially the AW109s are based at Kluang, but armed with the Miniguns some are or will operate out of Labuan Airbase at Sabah. The Royal Malaysian Air Force’s 15 Squadron “Panther” – flying Hawk Mk108 and Mk208s Hawk Mk208 – has already relocated from Butterworth Airbase to Labuan on 7 November. Moreover the Defence Ministry is aiming at basing its top F/A-18s and Su-30MKMs at Labuan as well, likely in smaller rotating detachments of 4 to 8 aircraft at a time. Labuan itself already was home to 5 Squadron flying the Agusta S61A-4 Nuri (licensed version of the Westland Sea King) helicopter and 14 Squadron with the C-130H30 Hercules tactical airlifter.

Best cards
Whether or not Malaysia will choose the T-129 will very much depends on the costs the manufacturer wishes to put on the invoice. With the current almost all European chopper fleet in the Malaysian armed forces, the Airbus Tigre initially seems to have the best cards on the table. But we at Airheadsfly.com won’t be surprised if Kuala Lumpur decides in favour of probably the perfect outsider in this bid: the Italian designed but Turkish redefined TAI T-129 ATAK.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

>>> See our feature T-129 ATAK makes its mark

A pair of Turkish Army T129As during the development phase back in 2012 (Image © Turkish Aerospace Industries)
A pair of Turkish Army T129As during the development phase back in 2012 (Image © Turkish Aerospace Industries)

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

Farnborough International Airshow kicks off

The scene on Monday morning at Farnborough.
The scene on Monday morning at Farnborough. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

UPDATE 15 July 2014 | The Farnborough International Airshow outside London kicked off on Monday 14 July under glorious skies. Airheadsfly.com is present to keep up to date with the latest aviation industry news, like the official announcement – as expected – of the Airbus A330neo. The press conference – the first of many at the show – around the A330neo drew a lot of attention on Monday morning.

Update 15 July 21:49 CET : F-35 now definitely cancelled.

The Lockheed martin F-35 Lightning II was supposed to headline the Farnborough airshow, but a press release stated on Sunday that the 5th generation Lockheed Martin aircraft will not be present at the the start of the airshow, for the same reason it failed to show up during this weekend’s airshow at Fairford. The grounding order for the F-35 was lifted on Tuesday 15 July, and replaced by a ‘limited flight clearance’. Wether that means the F-35 may show up after all at Farnborough, is still shrouded in clouds.

The US however already sent a strong delegation from Boeing, with two Dreamliners present, one which is the new 787-9, which just entered service with launch customer Air New Zealand.

Making its airshow debut was Textron AirLand’s outside-the-box Scorpion Jet, a twin tailed, twin engined and multipurpose light jet aircraft. The jet is a perfect example of a keep-it-simple mentality that seems mostly unheard of n today’s aviation industry. The Scorpion Jet first flew in December 2013, and crossed the Atlantic with no hassle on the way to the UK.

Display
Airbus however took center stage in de flying display with the Airbus A380, A350WXB and A400M tactical airlifter. The flying program at Farnborough also included a unique combined display by Alenia Aermacchi’s M-345 (indeed in Frecce Tricolori colours) and M-346 advanced jet trainer, plus the locally developed T-129 ATAK helicopter from Turkish Aerospace Industries.

The wonderful Airbus A350XWB at Farnborough. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The wonderful Airbus A350XWB at Farnborough. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Orders
But foremost, Farnborough is the place for big business. Airbus noted dozens of orders from BOC Aviation, SMBC Aviation Capital and AerCap for its Airbus A320 family, plus more importantly, 24 orders for the new Airbus A330neo from launch customer Air Lease Corporation, not to mention 60 A321neo orders from the same company. Boeing shook hands with leasing company CIT Group over ten additional 787-9 Dreamliners, next to an earlier order for ten aircraft. Bombardier bagged dozens of potential orders for its CSeries, despite the new aircraft being absent at the show.

Russians
Also absent to a large extend where delegations from Russia – the 103-seat Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100) being an exception. The crisis over Ukraine caused a stir over UK visas for Russian delegates, following which Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin advised Russian delegates at the airshow to “return home”.

The Farnborough International Airshow closes of with a public airshow on 19 and 20 July. Further news regarding the possible late arrival of the F-35, is expected within a few days, although the chances of it indeed appearing look slim.

The Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129 ATAK helicopter. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129 ATAK helicopter. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Boeing also send two F/A-18F Super Hornets, one of which was in the flying display. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Boeing also sent two F/A-18F Super Hornets, one of which was in the flying display. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

Turkey flies first 9 T-129 attack helicopters

A pair of Turkish Army T-129As during the development phase back in 2012 (Image ©  Turkish Aerospace Industries)
A pair of Turkish Army T-129As during the development phase back in 2012 (Image © Turkish Aerospace Industries)

The Turkish Land Forces (Türk Kara Kuvvetleri) have officially started flying their new T-129 (ATAK) attack helicopters as of May 2014, although the first nine now being operated are not fully developed yet.

The early development version (so-called EDH or T-129A) lacks the ability to fire anti-tank missiles, but has limited operational capability with its on-board 20 mm gatling gun and rocket pods for 70 mm (2.75 in) projectiles. Partner manufacturing companies Turkish Aerospace Industries and AgustaWestland are slowly getting towards the all-capable T-129B.

The new Turkish attack helicopter is a derivative of AgustaWestland’s own A129 Mangusta, but it has a more powerful engine and will be able to carry up to 12 of the Turkish variant of the Hellfire II anti-tank missile, called the UMTAS, as well as Stinger missiles. It is also said it might operate a Turkish developed Longbow-kind-of-radar.

The TKK is set to have a total of 60 T-129Bs, with the current T-129A being upgraded to B-standard somewhere in the near future.

Source: TAI/TKK