T-129 fighter chopper aces maiden test flight

September 29, 2009, Tuesday/ 16:49:00/ EMRE SONCAN
Prototypes of Turkish T-129 attack helicopters, which will be co-produced by Turkey and Italy, impressed dozens of politicians, military officers and bureaucrats in their first test flight in Milan yesterday.

Turkey's Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and Italian AgustaWestland won the bid in 2007 to co-produce 51 (plus 40 optional) helicopters for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). The combat and reconnaissance helicopter, an enhanced version of AgustaWestland's A-129s, will be named T-129 ATAK.

The T-129 helicopter, the first Turkish attack helicopter, made its maiden flight at AgustaWestland's facility in Milan yesterday, marking a significant milestone in the development of Turkey's defense industry. During the test flight, the new T-129 performed general maneuvers at varying speeds.

Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said after the test flight, “The T-129 has done maneuvers that no helicopter in its class can. It was really good even though this is only a prototype.” He said the helicopter was still unarmed, and said he had no doubt that the 129 would be the most valued attack craft of the Turkish army once its firing systems were installed. He emphasized in his speech that the computers and software controlling the T-129's flight, arms and maneuvering characteristics were produced by Turkish engineers.

AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi said the flight test after the helicopter is equipped with a weapons system is slated for 2010.

TAI General Manager Murat Dörtkaşlı said the first helicopters will begin production in Turkey in 2010, noting mass production was slated to start in the year 2013.

The helicopter will be equipped with avionic and weapons systems designed and produced in Turkey. The mission computer and targeting, navigation, communication and electronic warfare systems will be developed and produced by ASELSAN, a leading Turkish defense company. The program agreement also provides TAI with the right to sell and market the T-129 ATAK helicopter worldwide. The first T-129s are planned to be delivered to the TSK in 2013. TAI will have the right to use and administer the intellectual property of the T-129 ATAK helicopter, and it will be the sole source for its work share under the ATAK program for all potential future worldwide sales of the T-129 ATAK helicopter.

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