Pakistan may have selected the Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) T129 ATAK helicopter over the Chinese Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) Z-10 and sales negotiations are expected to start soon.
Both helicopters’ manufacturers were in the race to supply the Pakistan Army with a light attack helicopter in excess of 50 units with an initial negotiation involving 30 choppers. Three Z-10 helicopter gunship has been undergoing user trials since 2015 while the Pakistan Army put the T129 ATAK through rigorous hot-and-high performance tests starting June 2016.
Reports in various media said the performance of the T129 met the parameters set out by the Pakistan Army but the Chinese Z-10 helicopter did not as its engine is not powerful enough to support the helicopter in its attack configuration. The helicopter is fitted with two WZ-9 turboshaft engines that prevent Z-10 from carrying its maximum payload in attack configuration, the reports said.
Turkish sources at the Paris Air Show last week said that the deal with Pakistan “is all but sewn up” with the Pakistani authorities ready to begin commercial negotiations. Pakistan wants to be able to manufacture parts as well as assemble the chopper in its Pakistan Aeronautics Complex (PAC) facility.
Significantly, the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa had visited TAI while on an official visit to Turkey last week where he inspected and flew in the TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter, according to a Pakistani MoD press release.
At IDEF 2017 show in Turkey in May, TAI and PAC had signed a memorandum-of-understanding (MoU) followed by the visit to Pakistan by TAI chief Dr. Temel Kotil, who reiterated TAI’s commitment to enable PAC to manufacture parts for the T129 and possibly assemble T129 ATAKs.
The T129 is an upgraded variant of the AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta with Turkish companies such as Aselsan, Roketsan and Havelsan having developed weapons and subsystems for the chopper.