PAF blesses two new ‘ATAK’ helicopters from Turkey

Two newly-procured T-129 ATAK helicopters from Turkey were unveiled by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Friday, Dec. 9, which will be used to enhance their surface strike capabilities.

T-129 ATAK helicopter (File photo courtesy of Philippine Air Force)

The ceremonial blessing of the helicopters was graced by the Commander in Chief, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., at the Malacanang Park in Manila.

He was accompanied by Department of National Defense (DND) Officer in Charge Jose Faustino Jr.; Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro; and PAF Commanding General Lt. Gen. Anthony Canlas Sr.

Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo, PAF spokesperson, said the twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role all-weather attack helicopters will be utilized for territorial defense, aerial surveillance and reconnaissance, counter-insurgency combat operations, and combat support operations.

Its primary roles are for close air support, precision strike, deep strike, suppression of enemy air defense, security/urban warfare, and air-to-air warfare.

“These helicopters will complement the capability of the PAF and the AFP to provide enhanced surface strike platform to support ground troops,” Castillo said.

The PAF purchased six units of T-129 ATAK helicopters from Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) as part of Horizon 2 of the revised AFP modernization program. The contract for the acquisition was signed in July 2021 with a total budget of $269,388,862 or P13.728 billion.

This is the second batch of such aircraft that was delivered to the PAF, with the delivery made last Nov. 24. The first batch – consisted of two units – was delivered on March 9 while the remaining two units will be turned over in 2024.

The new aircraft are being operated by the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing based at the Danilo Atienza Air Base in Sangley Point, Cavite.

Castillo said that the capabilities of the T-129 ATAK helicopters were “very far and different” from the old procured helicopters since these are equipped with a 20 mm 3 barreled gun on the nose which has a sensor system.

“It is an all-weather platform and is designed for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions in hot and high environment, and rough geography in both day and night conditions,” she explained.

“Weapons, logistic support, training, and other packages are included in the budget. These are the things that we make sure of before we acquire so that we can maintain it for another 10, 20, or 30 years,” she added.

Prior to the delivery of the aircraft, PAF pilots and maintenance crew were sent to Turkey to undergo a meticulous training so that they will be fully knowledgeable in flying the ATAK helicopter, Castillo noted.