The Philippines' defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, this week confirmed to the government’s official Philippines News Agency that the country has ordered six T129B Atak attack helicopters from Turkish Aerospace, adding that deliveries are due to start in the third quarter of 2021. The budget allocated to this acquisition is stated to be PHP13.8 billion ($286 million).
Having earlier studied an armed light helicopter to augment the air force’s aging MD520MG armed helicopters, the Philippines Air Force (PAF) opted to acquire a dedicated attack helicopter in 2018. In November the selection of the T129 was announced, with an ambition to buy 8 or 10 aircraft.
The order has been held up by U.S. reluctance to issue export approval for the helicopter’s U.S.-made components, chiefly in the LHTEC T800 turboshaft engines but approval for the Philippines sale has been received. LHTEC is a joint venture between Honeywell and Rolls-Royce. Those restrictions continue to stymie an attempt to sell the T129 to Pakistan, leaving the Philippines to become the first export customer for the type.
In PAF service the T129B is expected to join the 15th Strike Wing at Danelo Atienza air base (also known as Sangley Point) in Cavite City, where the 20th Attack Squadron flies the MD520MG and a pair of Bell AH-1F Cobras received from Jordan in 2019. The 15th Strike Wing also parents the 18th Attack Squadron that flies armed Leonardo AW109E helicopters. Both units are assigned to counter-insurgency operations.
In the meantime, Turkish Aerospace completed the development of the T129B Phase 2 at the start of the year. This version has a laser warning receiver and improved electronic warfare systems. The first was handed over to the Turkish Land Forces (army aviation) in February.
In the same month the first of nine T129 Phase 2s was delivered to Turkey’s General Directorate of Security for operations by the police’s aviation department. They will be employed on anti-terrorist missions in the east of the country, flying from Van, Diyarbakir, Sirnak and Hakkari.
The police aviation department is a civilian organization that comes under the Ministry of the Interior, and is separate from the Jandarma (gendarmerie), which can be assigned to armed forces control if and when required. The Jandarma itself has received six T129 Ataks from an order for 18. Deliveries to the Turkish Land Forces have reached over half way from a total planned buy of 100 aircraft.