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Turkey And Pakistan Have Multiple Arms Deals In the Works

May 23, 2017

A growing military-technological alliance between Islamabad and Ankara reached a new benchmark this month. In what amounts to a marketing coup, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is now finalizing a deal with Pakistan for a batch of its T129 ATAK gunships.

The T129 manufactured by TAI is a localized version of the AgustaWestland A129, which is the only other successful European attack helicopter program aside from the Franco-German Tiger. The T129’s origins date to the 1990s when the Turkish military, under the guidance of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, sought a genuine rotary asset for augmenting its aging fleet of Cobras.

By 2013 the firm now called Leonardo commenced shared production with TAI and Aselsan, the latter firm providing the helicopter’s avionics. Aside from engines (the T129 uses two) sourced from Honeywell and Rolls-Royce, Turkish subcontractors like Roketsan were enlisted for munitions specific to the T129. The Turkish Army is expected to fly at least 50 of these machines at the end of the decade.

The T129 is best described as an analogue of the original AH-64A Apache. It’s a gunship suited for recce missions and close air support. On paper, a considerable performance gap is noticeable between the T129 and its current peers, the AH-64D and the Mi-28N, but this is a moot point for countries who need an attack helicopter they can afford in a limited market.

As early as 2013 reports surfaced of Pakistan’s interest in the T129 and by 2016 talks progressed to a point where the parties involved agreed to share production. This was done despite Pakistan ordering 15 AH-1Z Viper gunships from Bell Helicopter in 2015. This grew to 24 Viper gunships by the following year, with deliveries expected in 2017. In a strange twist, Pakistan also tested Chinese Z-10’s and bought a handful of Russian Mi-35’s to bolster air support for counter-terrorist operations.

It’s been reported Pakistan wants 40 T129 attack helicopters but the total cost and financing for the transaction hasn’t materialized yet. A major hurdle for the deal are the engines, which are sourced from Honeywell. Owing to the fragile state of US-Pakistan relations, export licenses for these might be denied, thereby killing the acquisition.

Cooperation with Turkey’s aerospace sector resulted another triumph for Pakistan’s local industry. In November 2016 an MoU was signed during the IDEAS arms show for 52 Super Mushshak propeller-driven trainers. The aircraft, which are already flown in several neighboring Muslim countries, are meant to replace the Turkish Air Force’s dated prop planes and lay the groundwork for long-term collaboration.

The contract for the Super Mushshak’s was officially signed in May 2017 during the IDEF arms show as a showcase for Turkic-Pakistani cooperation. This was meant to coincide with two other agreements; a Letter of Intent for the delivery of four Milgem corvettes and what appears to be a memorandum between TAI and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra (PACK) for unspecified projects.

The scope of these deals are sufficient proof that Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state surrounded by threats, has found a new ally for its military-industrial sector.

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