TAI order book is on the ATAK

Turkey’s ATAK attack helicopter is enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity.


All-round success: The TAI T129 ATAK has heavily stepped tandem cockpits, giving both crew the best possible all-round view. Picture: TAI.

After losing a $1.5 billion deal for 30 TAI T129 ATAK helicopters, originally signed in 2018 but abandoned after the US denied a licence to re-export the aircraft’s LHTEC T800-4A engines, the type’s order book is growing and operational experience has been extremely positive.

With 56 T129s now delivered to the Turkish Land Forces (five of them to the latest T129B phase II standard), the News of Turkey newspaper reports that six more are to be received this year, and that 91 will be in service by the end of 2023.

This is additional to 10 of 24 aircraft ordered for the Gendarmerie General Command (all but six of them Phase II), and three for the General Directorate of Security (all Phase II). It represents an increase of 35 over the previously announced total, suggesting that an option for 35 aircraft may now have been exercised.

The first export aircraft (part of a six-aircraft order by the Philippines) were delivered in March 2022, while Iraq’s defence minister has announced that his country will be acquiring 12 T129s.

An order for six aircraft for Nigeria was announced by TAI CEO, Temel Kotil, at this year’s Farnborough International Airshow, while Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brazil have also all been listed as potential customers.

A license-built and much improved derivative of the AgustaWestland (now Leonardo Helicopters) A129 Mangusta offers a compelling blend of excellent performance and agility, a compact footprint, and low cost. With a constrained budget in the Philippines, for example, TAI was able to bid six T129s, where Textron offered five AH-1Zs, and Boeing just four AH-64 Apaches.

The T129 reportedly has an unusually fast ‘scramble’ capability from cold, while its relatively small rotor diameter allows operation in more confined areas – including ‘urban canyons’, which might represent more of a challenge for the larger AH-64 Apache.

Jon Lake

Jon Lake

Jon is defence editor for both Arabian and African Aerospace magazines.