The third batch of 2 T129B ATAK attack helicopters, ordered in 2018, has arrived in the Philippines.

This is also the last batch of 6 aircraft that the Philippine Air Force has ordered. On November 30, these helicopters, transported by a Turkish Air Force A400M transport aircraft, arrived in the Philippines. The helicopters are slated to join the 18th Attack Squadron of the PAF before the end of the year.

The helicopters will undergo inspection and testing before being officially commissioned into the combat component of the Philippine Air Force. Previously, the Philippines received 4 T129B ATAK helicopters, which are currently assigned to the 18th Attack Squadron. The Philippines chose the Turkish-made T129 ATAK for its military at the end of 2018.

After the 2017 Marawi siege against ISIS-inspired terrorists, the Philippine military found that the MD-520MG Defender and the newer AW-109E Power armed helicopters did not have sufficient firepower. Instead of acquiring more light armed helicopters, the PAF favoured purpose-built attack helicopters, even if acquired in smaller quantities. In the end, the PAF’s Technical Working Group (TWG) selected the T129 due to its lower price than its American competitors in 2018. In 2021, the Department of National Defense signed a contract for the purchase of six T129Bs for Php13.7 billion via a government-to-government deal with the Turkish Ministry of Defense.

The T129 ATAK, a twin-engine, tandem-seat, multi-role attack helicopter, is based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform. Developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in partnership with AgustaWestland, the T129 is tailored for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions. Designed to operate in challenging environments including hot, high, and rough terrains, the helicopter is suitable for day and night operations.

The ATAK program originated to fulfill the Turkish Armed Forces’ need for a versatile attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopter. The T129 ATAK integrates Turkish-developed avionics, modifications to the airframe, and weapon systems on the AgustaWestland A129 platform. It features upgraded engines, transmission, and rotor blades.

The T129 ATAK is equipped with a 20 mm three-barrel rotary cannon in a nose turret with 500 ammunitions capacity and up to 76 unguided 70mm rockets for close air support. The helicopter is also equipped with up to 8 UMTAS 160 mm long-range anti-tank missiles, 16 CIRIT 70 mm missiles, 8 air-launched Stinger short-range air-to-air missiles.

The T129 ATAK fulfills multiple roles, including anti-armor, armed reconnaissance, ground attack, escort, asymmetrical warfare, fire support, and short-range anti-aircraft missions. The T129 is said to be equipped with the LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engine, produced through a joint venture between the American company Honeywell and the British company Rolls-Royce. Previous reports said that Turkey may face problems with engine export licenses from the US after the country was sanctioned by Washington for purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile system. But the US has approved an export license for Türkiye to sell attack helicopters to the Philippines.

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