The Turkish Land Forces is on the verge of taking delivery of their first T-129 ATAK attack helicopters as the production of the aircraft gathers momentum.
Speaking at the IDEF exhibition in 2013, company representatives stated that the army is expected to take delivery of its first aircraft in the coming weeks.
Four T-129A aircraft are now ready to be formally handed over to the army and will be used to train the initial batch of pilots and maintenance staff. In addition to these first four, three production aircraft are currently undergoing factory acceptance tests.
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the programme’s prime contractor that is assembling the aircraft, has increased production to one aircraft per month, which will be the ongoing rate through until deliveries of the 59 aircraft are completed in 2018.
Company representatives also revealed that TAI is looking at future upgrades of the aircraft, potentially including the installation of a millimetre wave radar and development of a manned-unmanned teaming capability.
Two prototypes have been manufactured and will be used to investigate the various upgrade options. In total, the programme has now done more than 2500 flight hours.
The initial deliveries will be of the T-129, which is described as a combat support aircraft and includes rockets, guns and integrated electronic warfare suite.
Development continues on the ATAK standard configuration, designated as the T-29B and includes integration of the Cirit and UMTAS missiles. The first T-129B will start qualification tests in mid-2013 – tests of the IR-guided UMTAS are scheduled to take place in July – and full production of the fully capable version is expected to start in 2014.
With the ATAK now the baseline for all future international sales of the A-129, AgustaWestland and TAI have developed a mechanism for the joint marketing of the aircraft and any specific sales drives.
While TAI took the lead for the recent campaign in South Korea, an effort that saw the T-129 lose out to the AH-64E Apache, which company takes the lead role in the future will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Meanwhile, with the Italian MoD currently carrying out preliminary studies to determine the future upgrade of its A-129 fleet, an AgustaWestland spokesman said the company’s approach would be to offer new aircraft rather than developing retrofit options to bring the fleet up to T-129B standard.