Turkish Army inducts first T129 recce/attack helicopter unit

The new helicopter is based on the Italian A129 airframe, optimized for operation in hot and high environments

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Two T129 ATAK helicopters seen on a training flight with the Turkish Army in 2012. The Land Forces Command has inducted the first ATAK unit in May 2014. Photo: TAI
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The Turkish Land Forces Command has received the first Turkish-built T129 attack helicopter, which inducted the new attack helicopter unit now equipped with nine T129s. Photo: TAI

The Turkish Land Forces Command has received the first Turkish-built T129 attack helicopter, which inducted the new attack helicopter unit now equipped with nine T129s. The first nine T-129 helicopters going into service are the EDH models, an interim variant that replace some of the oldest Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopters. The Turkish variant is based on the AgustaWestland A129 airframe, fitted with upgraded engines, transmission and rotor blades. It is optimized for operation in hot and high environments.

The new attack helicopters are manufactured jointly by AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) Under the $1.2 billion multi-year program. The new helicopters were delivered on 22nd of April 2014. According to TAI, the helicopters have logged to date over 4000 flight hours, through during the flight & firing tests, qualification & acceptance flights and training activities.

Under the agreement the advanced variant T129B with indigenous avionics, including the mission computer, avionics, weapons systems, self-protection suites and the helmet-mounting cuing systems. The LHTEC CTS800-4N engines powering the helicopter are also to be produced in Turkey under licence by Tusaş Engine Industries (TEI). The helicopter currently uses the Hellfire laser guided missile. The advanced T129B variant will also be equipped with RF link and targeting system supporting the UMTAS electro-optically anti-tank guided missiles developed by Roketsan. The helicopter will also retain the laser designator, necessary to guide the Cirit 70mm (2.75″) laser-guided rockets, also developed by Roketsan. The T129B are produced at TAI’s facilities in Akıncı (Ankara), Turkey.

The first prototype was built in Italy and flew in 2010 but crashed soon after. The first of three Turkish assembled prototype flew in 2011 TAI has produced three T129 prototypes under the ATAK program. The T129 ATAK Program started in 2007 for development and production of 91 helicopters. To date 59 were ordered (in addition to the first T129A prototype). Turkey has an option to order additional 40 helicopters.

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These T129 carry 2.75″ rocket pods and a chin mounted cannon for armament. The T129B will also be able to carry 12 UMTAS electro-optically anti-tank guided missiles developed by Roketsan. The helicopter will also be able to carry the Cirit 70mm (2.75″) laser-guided rockets, also developed by Roketsan. Photo: TAI