Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSB) signed a contract
with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for a Heavy Class Attack Helicopter Project on Friday. The value of the contract was not disclosed. 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 for the crew. The Heavy Class Attack Helicopter Project was launched to meet requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces in this field. It aims to design and produce an effective and advanced attack helicopter
capable of carrying a large useful load, resistant to challenging environmental factors and equipped with state-of-the-art technology target tracking and imaging, electronic warfare, navigation, communications and weapon systems. The project will play an important role in reducing external dependency of Turkey’s defense sector.
Turkey has been looking to modernize its attack helicopter fleet since the mid-1990s, but the process has mostly served as an object lesson in how not to buy defense equipment. This competition faced many difficulties; after numerous snafus, technology transfer and production issues, and canceled competitions, all 3 invited American manufacturers had abandoned the competition entirely.
Even the “final” round seemed imperiled, following reports of the Turkish military’s deep dissatisfaction with the choices. Nevertheless, the competition survived long enough to pick a winner, and signed contracts with AgustaWestland. But Turkey didn’t just buy helicopters. They bought the A129 model – lock, stock, and rotor.