Philippines seeks to receive first ATAK helicopter next year

Published 21.12.2018 21:46
Updated 22.12.2018 08:00

The Philippines, which has recently decided to add Turkey's domestically developed ATAK T129 Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter to its inventory, wants to obtain its new helicopter next year.

On Monday, a Turkish delegation visited the Southeast Asian country and signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation.

The memorandum of understanding has paved the way for broadening defense cooperation and the trade of military platforms between Turkey and the Philippines. The agreement will also facilitate export of the ATAK helicopter to the country.

The Philippines had been searching for an attack helicopter for a while, Turkish Aerospace Industries' (TAI) Corporate Marketing and Communications head Tamer Özmen said, while talking about the negotiations conducted for the sale of the ATAK helicopters to the Philippines.

Özmen said the Southeast Asian nation's quest ended with ATAK, the best helicopter in its class, after flights performed by Philippine Air Force pilots in Turkey.

When they became aware of the Philippines' search for attack helicopters, they invited officials to Turkey and came together at fairs they attended in the region, Özmen said, recalling that Philippine pilots flew ATAK helicopters in May.

Last week, Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that the Philippine Air Force had chosen the ATAK T129, adding that their budget could afford eight to 10 units.

Developed by TAI, the ATAK is a new generation, tandem, two-seat, twin-engine helicopter specifically designed for attack and reconnaissance.

Developed from the combat-proven AgustaWestland A129CBT, the new aircraft incorporates a new system philosophy with a new engine - the LHTEC CTS 800-4A - new avionics, sight systems and weapons, a modified airframe, an uprated drive train and a new tail rotor.

"When they flew the ATAK, they understood what a real attack helicopter was," Özmen explained. "When they compared ATAK to other helicopters, they found it very superior. They decided to purchase an attack helicopter in a very short time and chose ATAK in this regard. The process developed very fast."

At this point, Özmen said, there was a need for a state-to-state Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Industry Cooperation for the sale of the ATAK to the Philippines, stressing that this process accelerated with support from the Presidency Defense Industry (SSB) and that the memorandum was signed by SSB President Ismail Demir.

The memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation was signed at a ceremony at Villamor Air Base attended by SBB President Demir and Philippines Defense Secretary Lorenzana.

Özmen also said they had the chance to discuss the technical requirements. "We have a consensus on many issues. In 2019, they want to implement the first phase of the procurement plan. They are just as willing as we are."

Meanwhile, the domestically developed ATAK helicopter recorded Turkey's largest single defense export when Turkey and Pakistan inked a deal for 30 of them in July.

Less than a year after Pakistan, the Philippines became the most serious customer for the sale of ATAK, Özmen said, pointing to the importance of this success.

He said during the technical and administrative meetings they held immediately after the signing of the contract, they also discussed how the calendar for the contract would work. "We aim to complete contract negotiations in the first quarter of 2019. There will also be a routine export authorization process due to the nature of the work and internationally available procedures. If possible, we would like to make the first delivery of ATAK and fly it in the Philippines in the next year."

Recently, TAI Corporate Marketing and Communications head Özmen said the company applied for a license to export 30 ATAK helicopters to Pakistan, and the firm expects to receive the license in a short while. The Philippines has a budget for the project and a staged procurement process is under way, Özmen indicated.

"As stated by the minister and the SSB president, a figure below 10 will form the first supply package," Özmen said. "There is also an optional alternative. The Philippine Air Force has a number for modernization, and we think this option will be evaluated to reach that number. We are confident in our helicopters, their efficiency, program and logistical supportability after the first delivery. They know that they will get more effective results with the ATAK helicopter entering the inventory. We hope that this effective use will open the path of ATAK even more. With optional numbers we can reach a satisfactory point for both sides."

He also noted that to manage a quick delivery and complete their pilot training in their own helicopters in line with the expectations, at least 1-2 helicopters should be supplied for pilot training in the current program, as projected in Pakistan's program.

Stressing that the Philippines will make a significant contribution to marketing activities in the region, Özmen said, "Having made such a sale after Pakistan will make a positive contribution to the global branding of our company and other ongoing marketing and business development processes in the region."

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