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US approves Turkey’s sale of T129 attack helicopters to the Philippines

T129 ATAK combat helicopter
Photo: TAI

The United States has given its green light to Turkey to sell the T129 ATAK attack helicopter to the Philippines, Turkish media reports said Tuesday.

Turkey required an approval from the US as the locally-developed helicopter uses the T800 turboshaft engine manufactured by LHTEC, a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Honeywell.

The Pentagon has now signed off on the sale of a total of six attack helicopters, Turkey’s Daily Sabah quoted Serdar Demir, marketing and communications director of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), as saying.

Turkey’s sale of the attack helicopter to the Philippines has been in the works since at least 2018, when the country’s defense minister Delfin Lorenzana announced the purchase of six units. A memorandum of understanding was also signed shortly after the announcement, however the sale is yet to materialize due to the export licenses.

It is worth noting that TAI is also waiting for the US approval to sell the same helicopter to Pakistan. That deal is expected to include 30 airframes.

So far, the company delivered over 60 of the helicopters to Turkish Armed Forces, and the Gendarmerie General Command, a branch of the armed forces which takes up policing duties to ensure internal security and border integrity.

In late 2019, TAI tested FAZ-2, a modernized version of the ATAK helicopter equipped with a laser warning receiver and other electronic warfare systems.

Delivered in cooperation with AgustaWestland, the helicopter is equipped with a 20mm turreted gun with a capacity of 500 rounds and 70mm rockets with a capacity to carry 76 rockets. For multipurpose missions, it can carry 16 CIRIT 70mm laser guided air-to-ground missiles, 8 UMTAS long range anti-tank missiles and 8 STINGER air-to-air missiles.

Turkish Aerospace Industries has also been contracted to start development of a fully indigenous ATAK-2 heavy class attack helicopter project that would have twice the take-off weight of the current helicopter. The project is expected to achieve first flight in 2024.