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T129 ATAK Helicopters and ADA Class Corvettes Sale to Pakistan

by İbrahim SÜNNETÇİ

According to an Election Manifesto of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which was announced on May 24, 2018, Ankara and Islamabad have signed a deal for the sale of 30 T129 ATAK helicopters to Pakistan. The confirmation of the anticipated sale was revealed at the Defence, Aerospace and Space Section of the AK Party’s election manifesto, which was released ahead of the June 24, Presidential and General Election. The election manifesto states that, “a very short while ago a contract for the sale of 30 T129 ATAK helicopters was signed with Pakistan”. 

After around two months on July 13, 2018 both the SSB (as of July 10th, 2018 the name of Undersecretariat for Defence Industries [SSM] was changed to the Presidency of Defence Industries [SSB]) and Turkish Aerospace (Turkish Aerospace Industries [TAI] was rebranded as Turkish Aerospace [TA] on July 11, 2018) have issued statements to confirm the T129 sale to Pakistan.

The SSB announced that Turkey and Pakistan have finalized a deal for Pakistan’s purchase of 30 T129 Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopters (ATAK). “Contract negotiations on T129 ATAK helicopters between Turkish Aerospace (TA) and the Pakistani Ministry of Defence Production were finalized,” the Presidency said in a statement. “This is one of the biggest single defence export deals for Turkish Industry”, the statement said without specifying the value of the contract. However, according to sources the value of the contract is around US$1.5 Billion.  The Turkish Government has been working to allocate US$1.5 Billion in credit to Pakistan to finance this deal. According to TA’s statement under the contract the Pakistan Army will receive 30 T129 ATAK Helicopters and a comprehensive package of support measures, to include logistics, munitions, spare parts, ground support equipment and training. Turkish Aerospace will start Pakistan Army’s T129Bs deliveries in next three to four months and complete them by the end of 2022. Under the Pakistan Army T129 ATAK Helicopter Project, TA has also offered Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) parts manufacturing work for the T129 helicopters. 

Sources revealed to DEFENCE TURKEY that the Pakistan Army’s T129 ATAK Helicopters will have similar configuration with Turkish Army’s T129Bs and the first batch of 10 helicopters would be delivered in T129B Phase I configuration and the remaining 20 helicopters in T129B Phase II configuration. At the final phase of the program first batch 10 helicopters will be upgraded to Phase II configuration.  The major differences between Phase I and Phase II are at the FLIR payload and at EW Self-Protection Suit. At Phase II T129Bs contrary to AselFLIR-300T EO/IR Targeting System new generation CATS (Common Aperture Targeting System) Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Targeting System will be deployed. Although it is lighter and smaller than the second generation AselFLIR-300T used in T129A/B Helicopters and Heron and ANKA Unmanned Air Vehicles, it stands out with its superior features. The CATS, which weighs 60kgs is lighter than the AselFLIR-300T weighing 120kgs. While the T129As and T129B Phase I helicopters are equipped with only AN/ALQ-144 IRCM, ÖzIşık CMDS and MWS-TU Missile Warning System (MWS) sensors the Phase II T129Bs will also feature Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Radio Frequency Jammer (RFJ), Laser Warning Receiver (LWR) and 9681 V/UHF Radio sets.

On July 5, Aselsan received a US$254.725,195 Million contract from Turkish Aerospace (TA). Deliveries under the contract will take place during 2018-2022. This order probably has been given under the Pakistan Army T129 ATAK Helicopter Project.

Turkish Aerospace (TA) is the Prime Contractor of the T129 ATAK Program, covering the manufacture and delivery of 9 T129As, 50 T129Bs (29 in Phase I and 21 in Phase II configurations) to the Turkish Land Forces and 27 T129Bs to the Turkish Ministry of Interior (18 T129Bs to the Turkish Gendarmerie General Command and 9 T129Bs to the Turkish Police) under license from the Italian-British AgustaWestland (rebranded as Leonardo Helicopters in 2016). TA manufactures and delivers two T129s per month. As of July 2018, TA has completed the delivery of 36 T129A/Bs (9A and 27Bs) to the Turkish Land Forces and 3 T129Bs to the Gendarmerie General Command.

The TA/Leonardo Helicopters T129 is a twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter based on the Agusta A129C Mangusta International platform. According to SSB figures each T129 ATAK Attack & Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter costs around US$40 Million.

The T129B ATAK Helicopters sale to Pakistan would mark a significant breakthrough for the Turkish Defence & Aerospace Industry and would be the largest ever defence system export in a single project achieved to date by a Turkish defence company. This record was held by Otokar with a sale worth US$661 Million for the RABDAN 8x8 Amphibious Armoured Combat Vehicle to the UAE.  

As per the Pakistan Army Aviation Command’s official request one of T129 prototypes [tail number P6] performed high altitude and high temperature flight/endurance tests during May 20-31, 2016 in Pakistan and confirmed that the helicopter fully meets Army requirements. As part of endurance tests the T129 P6 carried out three high temperature flight tests at Pano Aqil with an average temperature of 50C, and in Pano Agal climbed to 14,000ft altitude in Hindikush. T129 P6 also performed long-range flight during sand storm from Quetta to Multan, which is base to FOB 2 hours and 40 minutes without refuelling. According to Pakistani media no other current attack helicopter has managed these tests so the T129 is the best that the Pakistan Army has seen. On March 23, 2018 a formation of three T129 ATAK Helicopters from the Turkish Land Forces took part during a military parade held in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Pakistan Navy Will Receive 4 ADA Class Corvettes By 2024

On July 5, 2018 the then Turkish Minister of National Defence (MoND) Nurettin CANİKLİ (on July 10, 2018 Mr. CANİKLİ, Minister of National Defence, handed over the duty to General Hulusi AKAR who have appointed to this duty on July 9), disclosed that Turkey has won a tender to provide 4 ADA (MiLGem) Class corvettes for the Pakistan Navy. “This will be largest single export [deal] in the history of the Turkish Defence Industry (due to the fact that until July 13th the sale of 30 T129Bs to the Pakistan Army has not been confirmed neither by the MoND or the SSB),” CANİKLİ said during an official visit to Montenegro without specifying the value of the contract. According to MoND CANİKLİ Ankara and Islamabad have agreed to build two of the warships at Turkey’s Istanbul Naval Shipyard while the remaining two will be constructed in Pakistan’s Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works Limited (KSEW).

The Karachi-based newspaper the Express Tribune quoted the Pakistani Embassy in Ankara as saying in a statement that the contract includes a transfer of technology as well as a transfer of intellectual proprietary rights for the design of the Pakistani ships.

Shortly after MoND CANİKLİ’s statement, Turkish and Pakistani authorities signed the deal on July 5, for the tender in a ceremony in Rawalpindi attended by the Deputy National Defence Minister and Military Factory and Shipyard Management Incorporated Company (ASFAT AŞ) Board Chairman Şuay ALPAY, Deputy Undersecretary of Ministry of National Defence and ASFAT Deputy Board Chairman Yunus Emre KARAOSMANOĞLU, Deputy Undersecretary of Ministry of National Defence and ASFAT Board Member Ambassador Başat ÖZTÜRK, Istanbul Naval Shipyard Commander Rear Admiral Erdinç YETKİN and Islamabad Ambassador İhsan Mustafa YURDAKUL. 

The deal, valued at around Euro1 Billion, was signed by KARAOSMANOĞLU on behalf of Turkey and Pakistani National Defense Ministry Ammunition Production General Manager Major Gen. Arshad MAHMOUD and Karachi Naval Shipyard Commander Rear Admiral Ather SELİM. 

The Prime Contractor of the Pakistan Navy ADA Class Corvette Program is the ASFAT AŞ, which is tied to the Turkish MoND. It should be noted that as part of the restructure efforts that were launched following the bloody coup attempt, carried out on July 15, 2016, with an amendment made on the 1st Article of Law on Ministry of National Defence (MoND) military factories and shipyards have been removed from the structure of related Military Departments and General Staff organization and affiliated under the MoND with the State of Emergency Decree Law No. 669 issued on July 31, 2016. In this context Naval Shipyards of the Turkish Naval Forces Command such as Istanbul Naval Shipyard, Gölcük Naval Shipyard and İzmir Naval Shipyard, have been affiliated under the newly established MoND General Directorate of Shipyards (TGM) in 2017. Following the completion of organizational efforts in late 2017 the MoND General Directorate of Shipyards came  into operation in January 2018 together with all of its sub-departments. In order to provide benefit from the capabilities of military factories and shipyards, with the State of Emergency Decree Law No. 696, issued on December 24, 2017, the Military Factory and Shipyard Management Incorporated Company (ASFAT AŞ) was established to construct facilities provide development and modernization of military factories and shipyards as well as manufacture, design, research & development and product development activities regarding the requirements of real and legal persons.

Speaking about the Pakistan Navy’s ADA Class Corvettes Project tender process, the then MoND CANİKLİ said:

“This tender will be realized, conducted and finalized by ASFAT company of which its fund is directly under the control of the state and also ASFAT is the head company of military factories and military shipyards established under the Ministry of National Defence. Turkey;  the MilGem Class corvette project has taken a quickstep in the international market. Turkey is at the stage of making such great progress due to this shining project right now. We consider this as a Project to provide further contributions to the development and enhancement of subsequent projects.”

According to presentation that was made before the signing ceremony on the Pakistan Navy’s ADA Class corvettes and the tender process, negotiations had started in 2015 and the first purchase demand was made in 2017, whereas the final sale/contractual negotiations had lasted just 12 days. According to presentation the first corvette will be constructed in Turkey, the second one in Pakistan, the third one in Turkey and the fourth one in Pakistan. The first pair (one to be constructed in Turkey and one to be constructed in Pakistan) will join the inventory of the Pakistan Naval Forces in 2023 and the remaining two corvettes in 2024. The first vessel will be constructed in 54 months and the remaining vessels will be constructed in 60, 66 and 72 months, respectively. 

According to SSB figures each ADA Class Corvette costs around Euro250 Million to Turkey. However, the Pakistan Navy’s ADA Class corvettes (to be customized to meet Pakistan Navy requirements) will have some differences in terms of propulsion system and weaponry and the Pakistan Navy will procure some systems and subsystems under the Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) approach. This has considerable impact in the decrease of unit price of the Pakistan Navy’s ADA Class corvettes compared to the Turkish Navy’s ADA Class configuration unit price. For example, while the Turkish Navy’s ADA Class corvettes can reach up to 31 knots with their 32MW propulsion power, generated by one gas turbine (LM2500) and two diesel engines (CODAG system configuration), the Pakistan Navy’s ADA Class corvettes will have maximum speed of 26 knots. On the other hand, while the Turkish Navy’s ADA Class corvettes has 10 days of sea endurance with 170 tons of fuel capacity (in 2015 fuel capacity has been increased to 180 tons to gain some few days of endurance) the Pakistan Navy’s ADA Class corvettes will have an endurance capacity of 15 days.

Constructed under the MilGem (National Vessel) Program and representing Turkey’s first locally designed, developed and constructed corvette-type combat vessel, ADA Class corvette is a modern littoral combat warship with indigenous capabilities, using extensive stealth technology in its design.  As the Turkish Navy’s newest and most advanced vessels the ADA Class corvettes have a mono-hull, displacement-type hull form. Their overall length is 99.5 meters, maximum beam is 14.4m, displacement is 2,300 tons (2,450 tons with full load) and their range at economic speed is over 3,500 nautical miles. Having an endurance of 10 days without replenishment and 21 days with replenishment the ADA Class corvettes accommodate a 10-ton helicopter (S-70B SeaHawk, with 11 personnel including flight crew and technicians) with platform, hangar and extensive service and handling equipment. With their 32MW propulsion power, generated by one gas turbine (LM2500) and two diesel engines (CODAG system configuration), the ADA Class corvette can achieve a cruising speed of 15 knots with a single diesel (MTU 16V595TE90, driving two shafts), 27 knots with LM2500 gas turbine and 31 knots fully laden with two diesel engines and a gas turbine. The ADA Class corvette is able to execute operations in Sea State 5 (without limit) and in Sea State 6 (with some limits). The vessel is equipped with a GENESIS based indigenous Combat Management System, Thales Nederland’s SMART-S Mk2 E/F-band 3D air and surface surveillance radar, STING EO Mk2 multi-sensor weapon director, Yakamos hull-mounted active/passive sonar system, Aselsan’s AselFLIR-300D electro-optical director and Alper LPI radar, and is armed with an Oto Melara 76/62 Compact gun (with a locally produced stealth shield), a RAM System GmbH (RAMSYS) Mk49 Mod 3 Guided Missile Launching System for the RIM-116 Block 1A/HAS  missiles, Aselsan 12.7mm STAMP (2x) turrets, eight RGM-84L Harpoon Block II SSMs, four x 324mm (2-twin) torpedo tubes (for Mk46 Mod 5 and Mk54 LW torpedoes) and an Ultra Electronics Sea Sentor Surface Ship Torpedo Defence (SSTD) System, which is replaced with Aselsan’s HIZIR Torpedo Defence System in 3rd and 4th vessels.  The Turkish Navy currently operates two ADA Class corvettes, TCG Heybeliada (F-511) and TCG Buyukada (F-512). Construction of the third and fourth vessels TCG Burgazada (F-513) and TCG Kınalıada (F-514) are continuing at İstanbul Naval Shipyard. Provisional acceptances of TCG Burgazada and TCG Kınalıada Corvettes are scheduled to take place in 2018 (September 27, 2018) and in October 2019 respectively.

Saudi Arabia has also declared formal interest to purchase four ADA Class Corvettes (to be customized to meet Royal Saudi Arabian Navy requirements). STM has been carrying out negotiations with Saudi Arabian authorities for the sale of 4 ADA Class Corvettes since 2016 and preliminary contract for the sale was expected to be inked during IDEF ‘17 Fair but it did not take place. In April 2018 Saudi Arabia signed a Euro1.8 Billion (US$2.2 Billion) framework agreement with Spain to purchase 5 Avante 2200 Corvettes from the Spanish state-owned shipbuilder Navantia, the contract also includes the construction of a naval base facilities. The construction of the vessels will be managed by Cadiz and Ferrol shipyards. Avante 2200 and ADA Class Corvettes are believed to be deployed at different fleets, one in the Eastern Fleet and the other in the Western Fleet