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Turkey is aggressively lobbying to give T-129 attack helicopters to Pakistan to replace its aging AH-1F fleet and is prepared to agree to generous terms with cash-strapped Pakistan to do so, according to sources.
The T-129 attack helicopter is a coproduction of the Turkish aerospace industries and a European consortium. However, the U.S. could sink the deal and make a counteroffer of helicopter gunships to Pakistan that could be too good to refuse.
Pakistani media reports state a deal with Turkey could lead to local production of the T-129 at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), but speculation that preparations are already underway to build a new helicopter production facility there could not be confirmed.
According to Defense News, Turkey made its latest push during Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Sept. 16-18 visit to Turkey for the Third High Level Cooperation Council meeting. Sharif was given a demonstration of the T-129’s capabilities and a potential deal was discussed.
Turkish officials confirmed talks have “matured to a certain extent,” and Turkey remains committed to any possible deal, not only for financial benefits but also potential strategic gains. “We see that both countries are keen to cooperate,” said one senior procurement official in Ankara. “We have a longer-term vision over any deal. We do not aim to win just one foreign contract but also view spillover benefits for the local industry. The Pakistani market may win international recognition for the T-129 and pave the way for future contracts.”
A U.S. industry source in Ankara said a U.S. export license for the T-129’s engine would be critical. “This may require complex deliberations in Washington, involving many industrial and political parameters,” he said. Nevertheless, Turkey hopes the T-129 will be an export success.
In remarks carried by Turkish daily Today’s Zaman, Turkey’s procurement chief, Murad Bayar, said Sept. 23 that the T-129 attack helicopter “had strong export potential.”
The T-129 has been going through acceptance tests before deliveries for the Turkish military. Officials expect the first delivery to be made within the next few weeks. “We may complete the delivery of the first nine helicopters by the end of the year,” Bayar said. “After these helicopters make their way into the Turkish inventory, I believe they will have strong chances for export.”