Philippine Air Force receives last two ATAK helos

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has taken delivery of all six of its Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T-129B ATAK helicopters on 17 May, the service announced on its social media account.

The helicopters are assigned to the PAF’s15th Strike Wing and will be used to conduct a variety of missions, including aerial surveillance and reconnaissance, counterinsurgency and combat support operations.

“The acquisition of the [helicopters] was part of the priority projects under Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program,” the service stated. “These dedicated attack helicopters are expected to enhance the combat operational capability of PAF and address the capability gap identified in urban warfare.”

Manila signed a contract for six helicopters at a cost of around US$269 million in July 2020. The first two helicopters and associated equipment were delivered by two Turkish Air Force Airbus A400M transport aircraft in March 2022. The service expects to put the new helicopters through acceptance testing and pilot orientation before formally inducting the aircraft, although no timelines were provided.

Former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier announced that the Department of National Defense (DND) had noted that the new helicopters will enhance the rotary-wing combat capabilities of the PAF, which currently uses the MD 520MG and AW109E Power helicopters to support ground and counter-insurgency operations.

The PAF’s technical working group had selected the tandem-seat, twin-engine T129B platform – originally produced under license from AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) and based on the A129 Mangusta – for its attack helicopter programme as far as late 2018, the acquisition process had been delayed for years due to export restrictions on the US-made LHTEC CTS800-4A engines.

However, Turkish Aerospace officials told media in May 2021 that the US State Department had cleared the sale of the engines and that production of the PAF helicopters could proceed.

by Jr Ng