First Operator of T129 ATAK Combat Helicopter in Southeast Asia
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced on 22 May that it is sending pilots and maintenance crew to Turkey to undergo training on the Turkish Aerospace (TA) T129B ATAK helicopter, indicating that the PAF's acquisition of the twin-engined combat rotorcraft is progressing.
The PAF's ‘15 Strike Wing' announced via its Facebook account that it held a ‘send-off ceremony' for future T129 pilots and crew, adding that training will begin this month at TA's facilities in Ankara completed in August.
The announcement was made after Serdar Demir, TA's director of marketing and communications, said on 18 May that the US State Department had recently approved the export license for the US-made LHTEC CTS800-4A engines that power the helicopter. This came after TA general manager Temel Kotil told the CNN Türk news channel in April that production of the PAF helicopters would begin “in the coming months.”
PAF is aiming to acquire a minimum of six T129B helicopters, as reported by janes.com
Speaking to Janes on condition of anonymity, Turkish defense sources referred to the engine export approval as a “done deal,” adding that TA is now only awaiting “an official writing” from Washington. They also noted that Demir had “ensured the export approval” after making several visits to Washington.
The Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) has repeatedly stated that it wants to procure the T129 ATAK, but Manila had also sought guarantees from Turkey about the platform's export availability.