The Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that it had received two units of the Turkish-made T129 “ATAK” attack helicopters at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Philippines, last March 8. The two choppers were part of an order of six units in a government-to-government deal with Turkey signed last July 2020.

“The PAF welcomes the arrival of two units of T129 ‘ATAK’ helicopters onboard the (Airbus) A-400M from Turkey at 30 minutes past midnight at Clark Air Base, Mabalacat City, Pampanga,” said Philippine Air Force Spokesperson Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano.

T-129 ATAK helicopter flown by the Philippine Air Force (GMA News). Source:
T-129 ATAK helicopter flown by the Philippine Air Force (Philippine Air Force/GMA News Facebook)

In an exclusive statement to the Philippine News Agency, Mariano disclosed that one of the A-400Ms Turkish Air Force cargo carriers contained two ATAK helicopters. The other aircraft brought the “initial logistics requirement” for the two units. He also mentioned that the new choppers are bound for technical inspection and flight tests before they can be accepted to the PAF and start service.

“It will undergo inspection, it will undergo acceptance (test), test flights before the acceptance ceremonies can be done, and it will go through a lot of orientation in (the) country, together with the pilots and the crew,” said Mariano, who believes that the helicopters will be commissioned in one to two months.

The PAF acquired the T129 choppers from the Turkish Aerospace Industries as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Modernization Plan – Horizon 2. According to Mariano, the contract cost the Philippine government $269.38 million, which is more or less PHP 14 billion. It included logistic support and the training of pilots and crew members in Turkey.

The delivery of the helicopters was pushed several times from September to November 2021 and was moved to December before it arrived this March. Initially, the second batch of choppers was supposed to arrive last month, with the final pair scheduled to be delivered early next year — it seems that the delivery has gone through some delays.

According to Mariano, the new ATAK choppers will be operated by the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing to be used for close-air support and reconnaissance missions. These helicopters will provide the crucial military capability to the AFP, which has been dealing with communist insurgencies and religious extremists for decades. Furthermore, they will be used in operations along with some Bell AH-1S Huey Cobra attack helicopters, which they bought from Jordan.

“The T129 is a dedicated attack helicopter, much like the (Bell) AH-1S Cobra. This new system will complement the several surface strike systems of the Air Force and will be another game-changer in support to the numerous missions of the AFP,” he added.