ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s procurement authorities have officially launched the country’s first indigenous program to build a heavy helicopter gunship in the 8- to 10-ton category.
A contract was signed between the procurement authority, Presidency of Defence Industries, and the country’s top aerospace company, the government-controlled Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI. Officials from both entities said they expect the new chopper will take its maiden flight within five years.
They officials also said the new attack platform will feature an advanced target-tracking system, imagery technology, electronic warfare suites, a cruise system, and communications and weapons systems. Other features include a high-caliber gun system, new-generation 2.75-inch rockets with different guidance systems, long-range anti-tank missiles and air-to-air rockets.
The attack helicopter is expected to perform all-weather missions at high altitude and have twin turboshaft engines as well as a 1,200-kilogram payload.
TAI already makes the T129, a 5-ton attack helicopter based on its predecessor, the A129 Mangusta. The T129 is a twin-engine multirole attack helicopter produced under license from the Italian-British AgustaWestland.
The T129 is powered by two LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines. Each engine can produce 1,014 kilowatts of output power. The T800-4A is an export version of the CTS800 engine. LHTEC, the maker of the engine, is a joint venture between the American firm Honeywell and the British company Rolls-Royce.
In 2018, TAI signed a $1.5 billion to sell a batch of 30 T129 helicopter gunships to Pakistan. TAI officials say they also want to export the heavy attack platform, specifically to the Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern markets.
However, as is the case with the T129, TAI will have to win U.S. export licenses for any export deal with a third country.
Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.