Turkey Launches Heavy Attack Helicopter

 - February 25, 2019, 5:08 AM
Turkish Aerospace's new attack helicopter exhibits the same configuration as the company's T129 Atak, but is considerably larger and more powerful. (photo: Turkish Aerospace)

Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSB) signed a contract with Turkish Aerospace Industries on February 22 as part of the country’s effort to indigenously develop a new 10-tonne heavy attack helicopter, which is likely to compete in the future with the Boeing AH-64 Apache. The contract for the Heavy Class Attack Helicopter project has an undisclosed value, and how much this initial contract covers in terms of program deliverables has also not been released. Details so far suggest that the program has an ambitious timeline with first flight of the aircraft expected within five years.

The helicopter—which may be designated T130—will have two engines driving a five-blade main rotor, with a tandem armored cockpit configuration for pilot and gunner. There will be a modular avionics package, which includes a four-axis autopilot and helmet-mounted displays (HMD) for the crew. Performance characteristics released by the SSB state that the aircraft will have a service ceiling of 20,000 feet and a maximum speed of 172 knots, with a 6,000-foot HOGE (hover out of ground effect) ceiling.

It is unclear currently what engines will be used to power the helicopter and whether they will be sourced domestically or internationally. One option is a variant of the indigenous TS1400, a 1,400-shp turboshaft engine being developed by TUSAS Engine Industries (TEI) for possible integration on Turkish Aerospace’s T625 utility helicopter.

Initial specifications suggest an external payload capacity of 1,200 kg (2,646 lb), with each wing able to accommodate three weapon stations for guided and unguided 2.75-inch rockets, anti-tank guided missiles and air-to-air missiles. The helicopter will also feature a nose-mounted 30mm cannon, similar to the M230LF weapon system that currently equips the Apache.

Other features include a nose-mounted forward-looking infrared (FLIR) turret that includes target-tracking functionality. The FLIR turret will be linked to the 30mm main gun with imagery projected to the helmet-mounted displays of the gunner and pilot, who will then be able to control gun-slewing with head movements. The helicopter will also feature a suite of electronic warfare systems such as infrared/ultraviolet missile-warning sensors and a tail-mounted directed-infrared countermeasure (DIRCM) system to jam heat-seeking missiles.

Turkey’s development of an indigenous heavy attack helicopter was unveiled in November 2018 when the SSB posted details of the project on social media. This program continues Turkey’s ambitious drive toward an advanced, self-sufficient defense industry that can supply a number of complex technologies including fighter aircraft, as well as sub-systems such as sensors and communication suites.

A day previously, the SSB also announced that various sub-systems of the TF-X developmental fighter were now going through wind tunnel testing, with a full aircraft expected to be rolled out in 2023.

Earlier in February, Turkish media reported that a twin-engine variant of the Turkish Aerospace Anka UAV will make its maiden flight next month. The High Payload Capacity (YFYK) variant—also referred to as the Anka-2—will be powered by indigenously developed TEI 170-hp engines and has a payload of 750 kg. It will cruise at 20,000 feet for up to 24 hours while transmitting ISR data via the Turksat constellation.