AgustaWestland, a member of the Finmeccanica group won a major Turkish program worth $2.7 billion to supply Tactical Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopters for the Turkish Land Forces Command. AgustaWestland estimates its share of the program to be in excess of Euro 1.2 billion, based on the requirement for 51 A129 helicopters. AgustaWestland proposed significant industrial benefits for Turkey, involving several companies including TAI and Aselsan.
The Italian company will co-produce the helicopters with locally based Turkish Aviation Industry (TAI) which will handle final assembly. As part of the initial phase, Turkey will buy 31 helicopters, and will have options for 20 more. About 60 A-129s, most of them modernized to CBT configuration, are currently operational with the Italian Army Aviation.
The Turkish model of the Mangusta will be designated T-129. The A-129 is operated only by the Italian armed forces. However, China is also known to be developing, with European assistance, a locally designed gunship known as WZ-10. This helicopter bears general similarity to the A-129 design. The only other company shortlisted in the Turkish tender was Denel of South Africa which produces the Rooivalk, so-far operated only by the South African armed forces. Franco-German company Eurocopter and Kamov of Russia were eliminated earlier in the process.
Two years ago a previous contract with Bell, to co-produce a Turkish version of the AH-1Z Super Cobra failed over price, technology transfer and licensing issues. This time the Turks demanded full access to designs, software source codes and mission systems to be used with the helicopter. Based on a platform anticipated as a cooperative European program, A-129 was well fitted for such requirements. The original design, first flown in 1983 went through two decades of modifications, enhancements and changes in dynamic, avionics, and weapon systems. The A129 is a multi-role combat helicopter designed for day/night and adverse weather combat operations. The A129, powered by two LHTEC T800 turboshaft engines, has a state-of-the-art cockpit and features a fully digital integrated avionics system which controls and manages the flight and mission sub-systems. The Turkish Army considers the Hellfire and Israeli Spike to equip its new helicopters.