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Turkey Has Plans For A New Attack Helicopter

February 23, 2019

Model of the new attack helicopter shared by Undersecretariat of Defense Industries.

Turkey’s powerful SSB, an inter-government office for directing local armaments production, announced the launch of a new project for a “heavy attack” helicopter. A composite image of the rotorcraft, along with a promotional video clip, were shared on social media and other sites. Its appearance is an almost complete departure from Turkish Aerospace‘s successful ATAK gunship based on the Italian T129 Mangusta. Critical details about the project reveal a model comparable with the US-made AH-64E Apache Guardian and the Russian Mi-28N Night Hunter.

The still unnamed “Agir Taarruz Helikopter,” also known as ATAK 2, forms part of Turkish Aerospace’s ambitious plans for its rotorcraft catalog that includes separate medium and heavy transports. While the ATAK gunship has proven itself in the close air support role and is being delivered to Pakistan, it had its limitations. Nor has the ATAK replaced the army’s dozens of Cold War vintage Cobra gunships. The SSB’s complete plans for its heavy attack helicopter remain unstated but its early publicity suggests a future role in conventional warfighting. This was apparent in a short video clip about it, where the cockpit’s ballistic protection against 12.7mm or .50 caliber ammunition was mentioned and its stub wings have mounts for air-to-air missiles.

According to the SSB, the heavy attack helicopter combines lessons learned from Turkish Aerospace’ development of the ATAK gunship and its new dual use multirole transport. One detail left out by the publicity blitz surrounding the gunship is an air data sensor sticking out from its stepped cockpit. The animation in its video clip was extremely detailed (there’s an infrared jammer behind the main rotor, for example) but the voice over only recited several features. Noteworthy are claims of all-weather flight and an impressive top speed reaching 318 kilometers per hour. A curious detail are its two target tracking gimbals–one is on the “nose” of the cockpit while another is located behind the landing gear. The latter gimbal’s purpose is difficult to ascertain but maybe follows targets when the gunship loiters.

The most impressive aspect of Turkey’s new heavy attack helicopter are its armaments. Aside from a 30mm cannon–the ATAK had a three-barrel 20mm chain gun–on a pivoting mount under the stepped cockpit each of its wing stubs support a 70mm rocket pod, a quadruple missile launcher, and a pair of air-to-air missiles. This broad selection of ordnance brings South Africa’s Rooivalk attack helicopter to mind. The heavy attack helicopter’s cockpit does boast modular avionics, target detection and tracking, and an integrated pilot display.

Yet there’s neither a timetable nor any statement from official sources to indicate when this heavy attack helicopter is prototyped and commences flight testing. Domestic efforts at making next-generation weapon systems take at least several years before coming to fruition and face numerous risks. The success of initial orders and the period until first deliveries are time-consuming as well. But the significance of Turkey’s latest military breakthrough can’t be downplayed; it’s the most advanced attack helicopter program by a NATO ally since the Cold War and its scope is unrivaled anywhere in the Middle East.

Below is a comparison of the known details surrounding the Turkish ATAK 2 or heavy attack helicopter with its closest peer, the Boeing AH-64D/E, which is the bestselling combat rotorcraft in the Middle East.

ATAK 2 AH-64D/E
Pilots 2 2
Engine 2 x N/A 2 x General Electric T700 Turboshaft
Top Speed 318 km/h 300 km/h
Maximum Takeoff Weight 12 tons 10.4 tons
Service Ceiling 20,000 ft 21,000 ft
Weapons 1 x 30mm cannon

6 x hardpoints

1 x 30mm cannon

4 x hardpoints

Operators Under Development Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE
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