Philippine Air Force T129 ATAK Attack Helicopter
Philippine Air Force T129 ATAK Attack Helicopter

1st Batch of Philippine Air Force T129 ATAK Attack Helicopters from Turkey Arrives

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that after a series of delays, Temel Kotil, general manager of TAI of the Turkish Aerospace Inc. (TAI) confirmed that the first batch of six T129B helicopters the government procured from Turkey will finally arrive in the Philippines. The first batch were supposed to be delivered in December, previously said the next two units would be delivered in 2023, and the last two in 2024. Once commissioned, the helicopters will be assigned to the 15th Strike Wing of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). On 22 May 2021, PAF reported that it would send pilots and maintenance crew to Ankara to be trained by TAI personnel.

When the Philippine Air Force (PAF) re-evaluated its capabilities and performance after the Battle of Marawi in 2017 against ISIS-inspired terrorists, it found that the MD-520MG and AW-109E Power helicopters did not have sufficient firepower. Instead of acquiring more light armed helicopters, the PAF is now interested in purpose-built attack helicopters, even if acquired in smaller quantities. In the end, the PAF’s Technical Working Group (TWG) selected the TAI T129 ATAK due to its lower price than its American competitors. TAI was able to offer six T129s for the approved budget, compared to just five AH-1Z Vipers from Bell, or four Boeing AH-64E Apaches from Boeing.

On 18 December 2018, the Philippines and Turkey signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Industry Cooperation that will allow Government-to-Government (G2G) acquisition and production, as well as technical cooperation on defense industry development. In July 2020, the DND signed a contract for the acquisition of six T129B helicopters from TAI for P13.7 billion, through a government-to-government deal with the Turkish Ministry of Defense. On 17 May 2021, after years of uncertainty, it was reported by multiple Turkish officials that the United States has approved export licences to Turkey to sell T129 military helicopters to the Philippines.

The TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK is a twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform. The T129 was developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) with partner AgustaWestland. The helicopter is designed for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions in hot and high environments and rough geography in both day and night conditions. The ATAK programme was begun to meet the Turkish Armed Forces’ requirements for an attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopter. The attack helicopter has a unit cost of roughly US$50 million.