Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is showcasing its T129 ATK attack helicopter and its Anka Male UAV here at Farnborough International Airshow for the first time. The burgeoning aerospace giant needs to find export customers soon if TAI is to go some way toward self-sufficiency. It is no surprise then that marketing efforts of the T129 ATAK (tactical reconnaissance and attack helicopter) have been stepped up this year, with the company also displaying it at the Bahrain International Airshow in January and ILA Berlin in May.
TAI (Hall 4 Stand H1 and Chalet A32) has two main shareholders–the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation (TAFF, 54.9 percent) and SSM (the Turkish MoD Undersecretariat for Defence Industries, 45.1 percent). As TAFF is the majority shareholder, the company is treated as a private entity; however, TAI is hoping to go partly public. In 2012 it had hoped to issue an initial public offering (IPO) allowing 20 percent of the company to be sold on the Istanbul stock market. Of the 20 percent, 4 percent was to come from the foundation and the rest from SSM. However, those proposals were abandoned, although they are expected be reviewed at a later date when conditions are right.
Showing Off the Gunship
The five-ton armed T129 is expected to play a big part in Turkey’s ambitious indigenization program as the government bids to cut its defense imports. Since the SSM signed a $1.2 billion contract in September 2007 with AgustaWestland, avionics specialist Aselsan and TAI for 51 Turkish Land Forces T129s, the helicopter–which is priced at around $40 million per unit–has been in development.
Under the agreement Turkey will develop an indigenous mission computer, avionics, weapons systems, self-protection suites and the helmet-mounting cueing systems for a platform based on AgustaWestland’s A129 Mangusta, flown by the Italian Army.
As well as TAI, other local Turkish companies are providing key support to the program’s success. Missile specialist Roketsan is developing weapons, while Aselsan concentrates on software and avionics. The 1,380-shp LHTEC CTS800-4A engine is manufactured in the U.S.
The first 30 T129Bs, known as Phase 1 examples, will not have any radar warning receiver or laser warning receiver like the remaining 20 Phase 2 helicopters, although they will be upgraded at a later date. All 50 will boast a full range of locally produced equipment. The latter will include the Aselsan AVCI helmet-integrated cueing system and an advanced targeting system turret, just above the 20-mm gattling-style gun. The targeting system houses a thermal camera, laser range-finder/designator, laser spot-tracker, color TV camera, color spotter camera with a multiple target-tracking capability.
Roketsan is working on the long-range Mizrak-U (formerly known as UMTAS) anti-armor missile and the Cirit laser-guided 2.75-inch rockets for the T129B, which will also be armed with stinger missiles.
To speed up the delivery of much needed attack helicopters to the Turkish Army, the company signed an additional contract with AgustaWestland on Nov. 8, 2010, for nine T-129A combat support ATAK early development helicopters (EDH) variants. They are in addition to the 50 the Turkish Army has on order and the single prototype (P6) used for test and development.
“The EDHs are basic helicopters, fitted with a 20-mm gun and unguided rockets. They will not carry laser-guided weapons and the electronic warfare specification is different,” according to TAI’s Integrated Helicopter Systems business development leader Gorkem Bilgi.
A big breakthrough came on June 10, when the first three EDHs were handed over to the Turkish Land Forces based at Guvercinlik. The three are believed to comprise prototype P4 (29804), the first EDH (EDH-1), which commenced Turkish Army acceptance tests in July 2012; P5 (29805)/EDH-2/ATAK-1; and EDH-3 (29808)/ATAK-2. One more is to follow shortly and the last five EDHs are to be delivered by the end of the year, according to TAI.
Some 28 TKK pilots and 85 technicians have already been trained on the T-129 at TAI’s Flight School, with all of the flying training being carried out by the prototype P6.
TAI continues to explore export orders and there are a number of future potential customers in the GCC and CIS.
Developed primarily to overcome potential procurement problems with foreign suppliers, the Anka (Phoenix) UAV, when finally certified, will provide Turkey with a 24-hour surveillance platform that will operate at altitudes of up to 30,000 feet. An agreement signed between Turkey’s SSM and TAI in late December 2004 led to the development and production of the Anka–Turkey’s first medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle.
The initial variant, designated Anka-A, is configured for surveillance missions and performed a 14-minute maiden flight on Dec. 30, 2010, at Sivrihisar Air Base in Eskişehir Province. Under the development programmed, five prototypes were built, with SSM officially accepting the UAV in February 2013. The sensor payload of the Anka-A includes optical and infrared cameras, courtesy of Aselsan’s ASELFLIR 300T, a laser rangefinder and a laser target-designator.
The company signed a contract with SSM in September 2013 for 10 Anka UAVs for the Turkish Air Force. However, several changes to the system were required. “We were expecting to produce and deliver the February 2013 qualified configuration but instead the Turkish Air Force asked for many more additional requirements,” Serdar Olez, vice president unmanned aerial systems, told AIN. “Among those the most important was the wide-band satellite communication requirement. The Satcom will also have a NB [narrowband] redundancy. Some other requirements are: encryption of common lines, new HD EO/IR development [and] industrialization of much previously imported equipment.”
Deliveries are expected to start by mid-2016 and continue for another 18 months. There is a two-year support program in place but TAI is hoping to switch to a performance-based logistical contract in the near future.
In late 2012 TAI started to develop a newer Anka-S version with Aselsan to deploy a synthetic aperture radar (SAR)/moving target indicator (MTI) and inverse SAR (ISAR) payload on board the Anka, for use as a signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform.
“The flight test for this configuration will soon start and we expect to deliver the aircraft to SSM within the first quarter of 2015,” Olez added.
Development of a proposed armed variant, called the Attack UAV, is also under way. Turkish Savunma Sanayii İcra Komitesi (SSIK–the defense industry executive committee) gave TAI approval on July 17, 2012, to begin feasibility studies into doubling the maximum takeoff weight of the existing air vehicle from 1.5 tons to 5 to 6 tons.
Issues arose over the supply of the Thielert Centurion 2S turbo-diesel powerplant in mid-2013, when the German company went bust. Having bought the business, China’s Avic abandoned all military use of the 155-hp rated engine, leaving TAI tasked with finding an alternative.
Hurkus Plows On
While the Hurkus turboprop trainer aircraft is not at the Farnborough Airshow, it certainly plays a big part in TAI’s future. The type is planned to be a future basic trainer not only for the Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri (TSK–Turkish Armed Forces), but also for export. The prototype is designated the Hurkus-A, a basic civilian version with an analog cockpit that will be certified for sale on the civilian market.
The military production variant will be the Hurkus-B, which will be more advanced with modern integrated military avionics and a mission computer, plus a fighter-style cockpit suitable for training future F-16 and F-35 pilots. The armed version will be designated the Hurkus-C and is to be capable of carrying a 3,300-pound (1,496-kg) weapons load. The TSK is also interested in this variant to support the Army’s attack helicopters. TAI also plans to offer a fourth version with a forward-looking infrared sensor that would be suitable for the Turkish Coast Guard’s maritime patrol operations, with the rear seat occupied by a sensor operator.
The Hurkus-A is the civil trainer, which made its first flight on Aug. 29, 2013, one year after being rolled out. Ozcan Ertem, executive vice president, head of aircraft, told AIN in late May, “The Hurkus-A has flown 50 sorties into the flight-test program. It will be joined by a second flight-test aircraft in August as we push toward EASA/Turkish CAA certification in 2015.
A contract with SSM for 15 Hurkus-Bs was signed on Dec. 26, 2013. “These are identical to Hurkus-A except it is fitted with military avionics suite with head-up display and three multi-function displays (MFDs) rather than commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) civilian avionics,” Ertem added.
In addition to the 15 Hurkus-Bs, the contract covered conceptual design activities to develop the Hurkus-C new-generation light attack/reconnaissance aircraft. As well as fielding unguided Mk 82/83s and INS/GPS-guided general-purpose bombs, plans are to arm it with the Roketsan Mizrak-U long-range anti-tank missile and Cirit 2.75-inch laser-guided missile already arming United Arab Emirates Air Force AT 802U Air Tractors. In doing so, the Hurkus-C will fulfill a close-air-support, reconnaissance and surveillance role in the TSK.