Great helicopter for the Turkish Military. The TAI/AgustaWestland T129 is an attack helicopter based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta. The T129 was developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), with AgustaWestland as the primary partner. The helicopter is designed for hot and high environments.
The ATAK programme was begun to meet the Turkish Armed Forces' requirements for an attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopter. The T129 is the result of the integration of Turkish developed high-tech avionics and weapon systems onto the combat proven AgustaWestland A129 airframe, with upgraded engines, transmission and rotor blades. It is in use by the Turkish Army, and is being offered to other air forces.
Design and development
The ATAK programme was begun to meet the Turkish Armed Forces' requirements for an attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopter. Turkey announced on 30 March 2007 that it had decided to negotiate with AgustaWestland to co-develop and produce 51 (with 40 options) attack helicopters based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta. Based on the AW129, the helicopter is to be assembled in Turkey by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) as the T-129. A contract was signed on 7 September 2007 worth $1.2 billion. Turkey's attack helicopter project is named "ATAK".
On 22 June 2008, the agreement between TUSAS Aerospace Industries (TAI) and AgustaWestland formally entered into force. Under the agreement, TAI will develop an indigenous mission computer, avionics, weapons systems, self-protection suites and the helmet-mounting cuing systems. Tusaş Engine Industries (TEI) will manufacture the LHTEC CTS800-4N engines under licence. Under the agreement, Turkey has full marketing and intellectual property rights for the T-129 platform; Turkey can export or transfer of the platform to third countries, excluding Italy and the United Kingdom.
The T129 was optimized for hot and high conditions. It has several key improvements over the original A129 inline with the requirements of the Turkish Army. The T129 will carry 12 Roketsan-developed UMTAS anti-tank missiles (Turkish indigenous development similar to Hellfire II). It will use the more powerful LHTEC T800 (CTS800-4) engine.
The T129 features a 20 mm gatling-style cannon in a nose turret. It can carry a combination of 70 mm rocket pods, Stinger air-air missile pods, and gun pods on its stub wing pylons.
On 16 July 2007, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK), Meteksan Savunma Sanayii AŞ and Bilkent University formed a consortium for the development of an advanced millimetre wave radar (MILDAR), similar to the Longbow and the IAI/ELTA radars. It is planned that the radar will enter service in mid-2009. The MILDAR project was successfully completed in February 2012.
A media report indicates that one helicopter will be kept by the Turkish Ministry of Defense and used as a test-bed for systems development. The remaining 50 helicopters will be delivered to the Turkish Army. An optional 40 more T129 helicopters will be produced if necessary. These 50 T129s are to be designated T129B.
On 28 September 2009, the T129's maiden flight took placed when P1 prototype flew at AgustaWestland's facilities in Vergiate, Italy.
In November 2010, Turkey ordered an additional nine T129 helicopters to increase its total ordered to 60. These T129s are to meet an urgent operational requirement for the Turkish Army and will be built by TAI for delivery in 2012, one year before the start of delivery the previously ordered 51 helicopters. These T129s are designated T129A, as they lack advanced anti-tank missiles. As a result of project delays, the T129As were to enter service in 2013.
On the 19 March 2010, the first T129 prototype (P1) conducted high altitude hover tests near Verbania, Italy after having completed several successful test flights. During the hover test T129 P1 lost its tail rotor at 15,000 feet. Test pilot Cassioli regained enough control to steer away from residential area before crashing. The helicopter's crew escaped without serious injuries.
On 17 August 2011, Turkish Aerospace Industries announced the first successful flight of the T129 prototype "P6", that was produced at its facilities in Ankara, Turkey. The tested prototype was the first of three prototypes to be assembled in Turkey.
In 2013, several media resources claimed that the first batch of helicopters delivered to Turkish Army for trials did not meet Turkish Army requirements in "vibration, balance, weight", and did not fit the requirements of the contract. The T129 ATAK helicopter's front is heavier than its rear, so its nose facing down. To resolve this, 137 kg was added to the tail, which caused helicopter to exceed its weight requirement.