Turkey’s first indigenous helicopter engine, that will power the T-625 Gökbey utility helicopter and the ATAK combat chopper will be delivered to Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for integration this year.
“Core of the T-625 helicopter’s engine was tested at TAI,” Mustafa Varank, Industry and Technology Minister, was quoted as saying by Anadolu Ageny Friday.
Gökbey’s engine will be delivered to TAI this year, Varank said, adding, “They will start working on the integration of the engine to be used in Gökbey after this delivery.”
The T129 ATAK gunship, built by TAI under license from the Italian-British company AgustaWestland, also uses the CTS-800-4A engine.
Earlier, it was equipped with two LHTEC T800-4As built by Light Helicopter Turbine Engine Company (LHTEC), a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Honeywell. Each engine can produce 1,014 kilowatts of output power. The T800-4A is an export version of the CTS800 engine, which Turkey selected to power Turkish Light Utility Helicopter (TLUH) in 2015.
The US is said to be holding up export permits for the LHTEC T800-4A citing the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regulatory regime.
Pakistan ordered 30 T129s for $1.5 billion in 2018. Deliveries were being hit due to non-availability of LHTEC engines. “Apparently we shall need US export licenses to go ahead with the T129 deal (with Pakistan). This is not a technological or financial matter but is purely political at the moment,” a senior procurement official told DefenseNews in 2018.
“This is a commercial deal with a country that has friendly relations with America. Why should the Americans punish Pakistan for their disagreements with Turkey?” a Turkish defense official was quoted as saying by the report.
Ismail Demir, Turkey’s President of Defense Industries (SSB), stated on January 6 that the Pakistan Army extended its delivery timeline for the T129 attack helicopter by one year.
Development of the Turkish TS1400 turboshaft engine began in February 2017, and according Quwa, it was slated for induction and serial production by 2025.
“The pressing need to retire its fleet of old 48 Bell AH-1Fs, is now pushing Islamabad to consider alternatives,” Major General Syed Najeeb Ahmed, commander, army aviation, told Defence IQ’s International Military Helicopter conference in London on 26 February.
“We are looking at other options. One of them is in China in the shape of the new attack helicopter they have created called the Z-10ME,” he said. Islamabad is said to have evaluated an earlier version of the CAIC Z-10.
With the domestic CTS-800-4A powering both T129 and T625 almost ready, the deal appears to be back on track.
In December 2019, Filipino Defense Secretary Lorenzana announced that the Air Force was mulling ATAK T129 purchase. Their budget for attack helicopters (estimated at $250 million) could afford eight to 10 units of the aircraft. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been singed to pursue negotiations. However, there has been no development since the MoU.