|T-129 combat helicopters (ATAK) being jointly developed by Turkey and Italy are almost ready, with the first helicopter scheduled to take off in April after Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) completes its assembly.|
The fuselage, motor and fan of the prototype, named P-4, which will be tested in Turkey, were made by AgustaWestland in Italy. Mission equipment and the navigation system were manufactured with Turkish resources. A piece on the fuselage was also made by Turkey. According to information obtained from defense officials, other critical components such as the fuselage and transmission will start being manufactured in Turkey in the next phase of the project. The T-129 is an improved version of the Agusta A129 Mangusta. Turkish companies will be actively involved in the production of the helicopter’s weapons system. Hydra and Cirit rockets produced by Roketsan will also be used by the helicopters. The T-129 will be able to carry Hellfire antitank missiles and launch anti-aircraft Stinger missiles.
The ATAK program aims to manufacture 50 combat and tactical reconnaissance helicopters and an optional 41 helicopters for the Turkish Land Forces in Turkey using software and equipment produced inside the country.
In addition to AgustaWestland and TAI, Turkish defense industry companies such as Aselsan and Roketsan also have key roles in the $3 billion project. According to an agreement signed between TAI, AgustaWestland and Aselsan, mass production is expected to start by June 2013.The first helicopter to be completed in the TAI plants will take off into Turkish skies in April.
If the test flight is successful, the production of other major parts in Turkey will gain momentum. Defense sector officials note that if the T-129 project is successful, Turkey will be able to meet its helicopter needs using its own resources for many years to come. Turkey will also obtain license agreements for the T-129 and be able to export these helicopters to Third World countries.