T129 ATAK is actually a derivative version based on A129 Mangusta of the Italian Air Force.
The Turkish military is a powerful and large-scale force in the Middle East. In an effort to support rebels in Idlib these days, along with fighter aircraft, the T129 ATAK helicopter has been used by the Turkish Air Force. According to Anadolu news agency, during the attacks from late February 2020 to the present, the Turkish Air Force has assisted jihadist groups in conducting a series of air strikes on a number of positions of pro-Syrian forces in Idlib. Local military sources said the Turkish helicopter attacks had left about 34 civilians dead and 100 others injured.
The Turkish Air Force’s use of the T129 helicopter has shown the fierce in Syria battlefield. This type of helicopter possesses attack power that is not inferior to any heavy attack helicopter, in some situations it even outperforms colleagues from Russia and the US. Observers say that the deployment of T-129 helicopters to the Syrian battlefield is thought to create an additional advantage on the battlefield.
T129 ATAK is actually a derivative version based on A129 Mangusta of the Italian Air Force. The ATAK program was started in 2007, AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries have collaborated to develop an attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopter that meets the requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces. The helicopter is equipped with state-of-the-art indigenous mission computer, avionics, weapons systems, self-protection suites and the helmet-mounting cuing systems.
The airframe, weapon systems, and other components are based on the proven AgustaWestland A129 predecessor. The first flight was took on in September 2009 and was officially introduced to the public in 2014. To date, 59 aircraft have been produced at an estimated price of $3.2 million each. The helicopter is optimized for hot and high conditions, rugged geography both during day and night. Compared to the original A129 it also has some important improvements to suit the requirements of the Turkish Army.
Basically, the exterior design of the T129 retains many sharp lines of the original AgustaWestland product. It is much smaller and lighter than contemporary attack helicopters like the US AH-64 or Russian Mi-24. The maximum take-off weight of T129 is only 5 tons, the length is 13.45m, the height is 3.4m and the rotor diameter is 11.9m.
Like other common attack helicopters, the T129 cockpit is designed for a crew of two, sitting in tandem. The weapons officer sitting in the front cockpit and the pilot in the rear, a little higher. The fuselage of the T129 is very angular and armored for ballistic protection, the composite rotor blades are also able to withstand hits from 23mm cannon fire. There is a mid-mouted five-bladed main rotor, a two-bladed tail rotor at the rear. The landing gear is fixed, two single-wheeled main landing gear legs along the forward sides of the fuselage with a single-wheeled tail leg under the vertical tail fin. Overall, the T-129 inherits many of the same qualities inherent in the other specialized attack helicopter designs of the world.
Power is provided by a pair of LHTEC CTS800-4A turboshaft engines, delivering 1,361 horsepower each, much stronger than the original A129. The engines have been designed to incorporate infrared heat signature reduction measures. The helicopter can reach a maximum speed of 278 km/h, a stable cruise speed of 269 km/h.
Weapons will be stored externally on stubwings mounted on either side of the fuselage. A total of four hard points, the total weaponry payload that the T129 can accommodate is 1.2 tons. It could be anti-tank guided missiles, air-to-air missiles, 70mm rockets and 70mm guided rockets. In addition, a 20 mm three-barreled gun mounted on the nose turret would be an additional firepower needed.
One of the key protective measures incorporated onto the T129 is the electronic warfare suite include active and passive countermeasures systems such as the countermeasure dispensing system, a missile warning system, laser warning system, radio frequency jammer, radar warning receiver and infrared countermeasures. The digital cockpit of the T129 incorporates two colour multifunctional displays, keyboard display unit, Avionic Central Control Computer and a four-axis automatic flight control system. Turkey also developed for this helicopter an advanced fire control radar, which is similar to US Longbow, used by the AH-64D. It allows to fire anti-tank guided missiles in fire-and-forget mode.
The latest upgraded version of the T129 helicopter is ATAK FAZ-2. Turkey recently announced that it had successfully conducted its first flight for FAZ-2 on November 13, 2019. New equipments has been integrated into the new helicopter, including electronic warfare systems and some upgrades in radar warning devices. Other basic parameters of the T129 ATAK remain the same on the ATAK FAZ-2.
Considered the pride of the Turkish defense industry, T129 has received the attention of countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Currently, Pakistan has ordered 20 aircraft and the Philippines has ordered 10. The trouble related to the acquisition of S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia has greatly affected the production of the T129. Turkey’s Ahval site said that, due to the purchase of Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defense missile systems, Ankara had serious problems with several major British and American military partners. Specifically, the United Kingdom has refused to provide engines to equip the T129 attack helicopters. The first consequence of this situation is that Turkey cannot complete the contract for Pakistan. In the long run is the bankruptcy of a large-scale weapons program. The UK did not give a reason for stopping the supply of helicopter engines, but it seems that London is working closely with Washington to put pressure on Ankara. Turkey may choose to buy Ukrainian engines instead, but it is difficult for them because the Kiev government will have to look at the American face to decide. With the latest sanctions, the US has shown it can do a lot to Turkey, not just with the F-35 stealth fighter, but also many other weapons.