Pakistan selects T129 ATAK helicopters to replaces its AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters, acquired in the 1980s. The 5 ton T129 is a twin-engine multi-role attack helicopter manufactured under license by the Italian-British company Agusta Westland and based on the A129 Mangusta. It is powered by two LHTEC T800-4A turbo engines. The engine manufacturer LHTEC is a joint venture between American company Honeywell and British company Rolls-Royce.
In July 2018, Pakistan signed a $1.5 Billion contract with Turkey to purchase 30 Turkish-made T129 ATAK helicopters. However, Turkey’s aerospace industry, which makes helicopters, must first obtain an export permit to the United States before deliveries can take place. The delivery date has delayed because the Pentagon refused to issue a license to export other US-made engines and parts.
In January 2020, Pakistan awarded the manufacturer, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the first one-year extension to supply helicopters. At the risk of selling, the Turkish government hired Tusas Engine Industries, a sister company of TAI, to develop local aircraft engines for the T129. Pakistan has again renewed its helicopter contract with Turkey and gave an additional six months to deliver the aircraft.
“We have received a six month extension from Pakistan,” Ismail Demir, Turkey’s senior public procurement official told media. But the extension does not mean the deal will work.
US and Turkish dispute on T129 ATAK Helicopters
The Biden administration withdrew a motion to Congress to approve the sale of Turkey’s Defense Procurement Agency. The United States sanctioned it in December 2020 in response to the purchase of the S-400. Media reported that the US objection was that Washington is against Ankara to buy Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defense system.
US lawmakers also concerned that attack helicopters could increase Pakistan’s ability to launch ground attacks against India as the United States deepens its defense and security ties.
A Turkish aerospace official told that this was not the only problem. He said, “There are other components that may be refused an export permit by the US. We were under the impression that the T129 deal would not have been reached without political contributions from Washington.”
“It’s not a technological or commercial issue but purely political. It appears to be a Turkey-Pakistan deal will fall victim to the US and Turkey dispute”, he added.
What will happen next?
Analyst said that the Pakistani military is cautious about the use of US equipment. “In case of Pakistan, US will also not be prepared to provide the equipment in the event of a conflict with India,” he added.
“The decision on Pakistan looks to go to China by evaluating China’s Z-10ME attack helicopters.”