US sanctions deal double blow to TAI helicopter sales

Sanctions imposed following Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400E air defence system have affected TAI sales to both the Philippines and Pakistan.

T129B helicopter

Finally there: After many delays, two T129B helicopters were delivered to the Philippine Air Force at Clark Air Base, Pampanga, on March 9. Picture: TAI.

Two T129B helicopters were finally delivered to the Philippine Air Force at Clark Air Base, Pampanga, on March 9.

They were transported by two Turkish Air Force A400Ms, which may have been used due to the disruption to global transport services as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Philippine Air Force technical working group selected the T129 for its attack helicopter programme by late 2018, but the acquisition was beset by delays, to a large extent due to US export restrictions linked to Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400E air defence system. These restrictions affected the T129, because it uses a pair of US-supplied LHTEC T800-4A engines. The restrictions were subsequently lifted.

But, before the easing of restrictions, the delivery date for the first two helicopters was pushed back from September 2021, to November and then to December 2021.

A second pair of T129s were due to have been delivered in February 2022, but this delivery has also been delayed.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s 2018 $1.5 billion contract with TAI for 30 T129s to replace its fleet of Bell AH-1F Cobras has also been beset by delays due to the US sanctions affecting the LHTEC T800-4A engines.

Pakistan granted extensions to the agreed deadline in January 2020 and March 2021, giving TAI time to resolve its differences with the US – or to develop an alternative powerplant strategy for the T129.

It has been reported that Islamabad had cancelled its order and was seeking Chinese Z-10ME attack helicopters instead. However, Major General Babar Iftikhar, the director-general of inter-services public relations (ISPR) – the media wing of the Pakistan Army – has since said: “It is clarified that Pakistan has never ruled out an acquisition of military helicopters from Turkey.”

Jon Lake

Jon Lake

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