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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Purchase of T129 ATAK Falls Through, What's Next for the Attack Helicopter project of PAF?

In previous MaxDefense reports made through our blog entries, and social media posts, and later corroborated by reports by local and international media and defense outlets, it was reported that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Technical Working Group (TWG) has selected the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T129 ATAK attack helicopter for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project under the Horizon 2 phase Priority Projects of the RAFPMP.

The TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter during an airshow. Credits to original source of the photo.

The Department of National Defense (DND) through Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana also supported this decision, and was the submitted request to Malacanang for approval by the President Rodrigo Duterte. Despite Pres. Duterte's preference on Russian attack helicopters, he approved the request of the DND and PAF for implementation, allowing the DND to finalize negotiations with TAI and the Turkish Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Trade.

For further reading, you may refer to a previous blog entry regarding the decision to acquire the T129 ATAK attack helicopters from Turkey, which can be accessed from the link provided below:

"Philippine Air Force Technical Group Picks TAI's T129 ATAK as its Future Attack Helicopter" - first posted on 28 November 28 2018.

The PAF, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Filipino people were all expecting the release of Notice of Award (NOA) in favor of Turkish Aerospace Industries, and eventually a Contract Signing between them and the DND, which was planned to be made sometime between March and May 2019.

A scale model of the T129 during the Philippines-Turkey Defense MOU Signing last December 2018 in Manila. Photo taken from CNN Turk.

But it's already almost July 2019. No NOA has been released in favor of TAI. No contract signed.

Another helicopter acquisition project running parallel and done separately with the Attack Helicopter acquisition project went through smoothly and has completed contract signing a few months ago.

So what happened?

The Turkish S400 Triumf deal and its Implications:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision to acquire the Russian-made S400 Triumf long range air defense system has placed Turkey at odds with its allies with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led by the United States of America.

NATO and the US government has been asking Turkey to re-consider its acquisition of the Russian S-400 system since it would expose vulnerabilities on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which Turkey also plans to buy as their next generation fighter aircraft.

Russia's S-400 Triumf long range air defense system, said to be among the best in the world, and Turkey wants it. Credits to original source of the photo.

The US believes that the considerable exposure of the F-35 to the S-400's radars and targeting system could transmit data to the Russian manufacturers of the system, and ultimately to the Russian military and government, which would enable them to get valuable information on the aircraft and probably create ways to counter it.

Also, the US insists that buying from Russia, specifically the state-run arms export agency Rosoboronexport is in the US government's blacklist, and dealing with them can be a reason to receive sanctions through the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

But Turkey insisted on pushing through with the deal despite the US giving them a deadline of up to the end of July 2019 to cancel the deal with Russia. This is because they do not agree with the US' assessment on the S-400 affecting the F-35 aircraft, while also believing that the S-400 is a better performing product than what its western allies have or are willing to sell to Turkey.

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter - unknowingly the Philippines was indirectly affected by issues regarding this aircraft. Photo taken from the National Interest website.

The US threatened sanctions to Turkey if the deal proceeds, including cancellation of sale of the F-35 JSF, as well as economic and trade sanctions through CAATSA including elimination of Turkish suppliers and manufacturers from the F-35 supply chain.

This sanction may also include export of technology, equipment and components, spare parts, weapons and munitions by the US and its allies who support the program against the Turkish government and industrial sector.

Turkey's TAI would be greatly affected by any sanctions triggered by the government's decision to buy the Russian S-400 Triumf air defense system. And it will affect not just the production of the T129 ATAK but also almost all of TAI's aircraft products until new sources of components and new certifications can be received. Credits to original source of the photo.

The Philippines' planned T129 ATAK acquisition:

While these political events are happening in Turkey, the Philippines selected the Turkish made TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter for its own requirements.

The T129 ATAK is the result of Turkey's program to create an indigenous attack helicopter that they could manufacture and use for their armed forces, as well as for export to other countries. Technology was based mostly from the Agusta (later AgustaWestland) A129 Mangusta attack helicopter from Italy, which uses several components from the US and other allies.

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana in the background of a  TAI T129 ATAK scale model during the Defense MOU signing last December 2018 in Manila. Photo taken from CNN Turk.

The T129 ATAK is an improvement over the original A129 Mangusta, replacing minor Italian or foreign-made components with equivalent Turkish made ones while continuing the use of foreign made components that are not yet available in Turkey's own facilities. This is while also increasing performance values including the use of more powerful engines to support the new aircraft.

While Turkey is very much willing to sell the TAI T129 ATAK to the Philippines, the problem now lies on the effects of CAATSA to the ability of TAI to secure the components needed to build new T129 ATAK attack helicopters and other products, as well as providing spare parts and support once these aircraft are delivered.

The T129 ATAK attack helicopter of the Turkish Army. Credits to original source and owners of the photo.

Based on information gathered by MaxDefense for the last several months through sources from the DND, PAF, and friends from local and international defense industry and aviation industry, it turns out that everything looks gloomy for the DND's deal with TAI and its Turkish counterparts.

Due to TAI and the Turkish government's inability to provide assurances that US-made component including the LHTEC CTS800-4A turboshaft engines and many other components, it was decided by the DND and the PAF TWG and leaders to STOP the deal with TAI and the Turkish government.

The LHTEC CTS800 turboshaft engine, the same engine powering the T129 ATAK and the AW159 Wildcat helicopters.
Photo taken from Honeywell Aerospace's website.

It was also decided that since TAI may be unable to deliver the T129 ATAK to the Philippines, the PAF TWG was requested to re-open its evaluation and selection process for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project.

In short, it could be safe to say that the acquisition of TAI T129 ATAK is practically dead.

It is probably also safe to say now that the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project is rebooted, or may even be put on-hold for now.


While the PAF TWG was asked to start re-evaluating the products previously offered to them, the process may take some time before a new model gets selected.

This also means re-opening the door to previous offers made to the PAF which may include the Bell AH-1Z Viper, the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian, the Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-28 Havoc and Mil Mi-35 Hind, and other helicopter models.

Previously, the PAF TWG's findings on not selecting these helicopters were attributed to different things: the AH-1Z and AH-64E were both too expensive, and may take a considerable time to deliver due to the long process of getting approvals for buying American products. While the Mi-28 Havoc and Mi-35 has inter-operability, compatibility, and support issues, not to mention CAATSA issues on both helicopters, and size and performance issues on the Mi-35.

Other new offers were made to the PAF, including that from Sikorsky with their S-70i Battlehawk proposal, which is strongly being considered due to its commonality in parts, logistics, training and everything else with the S-70i Black Hawk Combat Utility Helicopters ordered by the PAF a few months ago.

The Sikorsky S-70i Battlehawk armed helicopter was also offered to the PAF when the deal for the T129 ATAK fell through. Photo credits to original source.

Currently, the only solution that is coming the PAF's way is the delivery of two (2) AH-1S Cobra helicopters from the Kingdom of Jordan, which were donated to the PAF although requires some work that the PAF and DND needed to shoulder.

The AH-1 Band-Air Solution?

 The incoming AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters donated by Jordan are the only thing that is closest to the Attack Helicopter or T129 ATAK that is arriving for the PAF. Despite previous posts by MaxDefense naming these helicopters as AH-1F (Foxtrot), it appears that they are actually older AH-1S (Sierra). But it does not matter since these AH-1S have the same performance as the newer AH-1F.

An info-graphic of the upcoming AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters of the PAF. And it turns out they are actually ex-IDF AH-1 Tzefas! Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by a source.

According to MaxDefense's sources, these helicopters are actually former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) aircraft that were among the 14 units donated by Israel to Jordan. In short, we are getting 3rd hand helicopters. But its not bad after all.

These helicopters are actually ex-IDF AH-1 Tzefa attack helicopters, which are either AH-1S or AH-1F Cobra helicopters but brought to a common standard by the Israelis to simplify things by having commonality along the entire fleet. The only way to know the difference between a Foxtrot and Sierra Tzefas was looking at the body serials plate.

Ever wonder why the ex-Jordanian AH-1 Cobras can fire Spike-ER missiles as mentioned in the info-graphic above? Because these are Tzefas!!!

An Israel Defense Force AH-1S/F Tzefa attack helicopter, which were among those donated by Israel to Jordan, and now being donated by Jordan to the Philippines. Credits to original source of photo.

With only two (2) units arriving, these helicopters are obviously not enough to cover the delays in the Attack Helicopter acquisition project. And this could be a good reason for the PAF to consider the acquisition of more AH-1S/F Cobra attack helicopters from either Jordan, Israel, or other friendly countries as a temporary solution, and to give meaning to the introduction of Cobra attack helicopters into the PAF's fleet.

Having 2 AH-1S Tzefa Cobra attack helicopters isn't enough. How to solve this? By getting more of the same helicopters to make the earlier decision to accept 2 helicopters become relevant and reasonable.
Credits to original source of photo.

For further reading regarding the discussions, you may refer to our previous blog entry discussing the Jordanian donation of AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to the Philippines, you may refer to an old blog entry discussing this, which can be accessed on the link provided below:

"Is the Philippine Air Force Getting Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopters from Jordan?" - first posted on 21 August 21, 2017

What's Next for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project?

And if our sources is correct, it appears that the PAF TWG may wait until the 2 AH-1S Tzefa Cobra helicopters arrive late this year before they make a new decision. This is for the PAF, specifically the 15th Strike Wing, to evaluate the helicopters to decide if they really would go for a purpose-built attack helicopter, or re-consider the Battle Taxi option like the S-70i Battlehawk offer.

But the PAF TWG should decide quickly. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already released the funds for the PAF's Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project for 2019. And if the DND and PAF do not make use of the funds for the project by the end of 2019, the funds will have to be transmitted back to the DBM, with the PAF and DND again requesting for its release. And everyone following the defense modernization knows how lengthy this process is.

So the only way to go now for the PAF and DND is forward - make a new selection soon, award the project and complete the procurement phase within the year.

MaxDefense's only concern is that this also opens a new door for Pres. Duterte and his friends to push again their preferences, like those from Russia.

Its sad that the Philippines lost an opportunity to have a promising attack helicopter, but in this case, its not our fault but the fault of others - Turkey to be exact.

Any updates regarding the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project will now be posted also in our MaxDefense Resource Page portal under the Philippine Air Force Modernization Program Projects.

This could be accessed through the link provided below:

"Attack Helicopter (Horizon 2) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force" - to be updated continuously.

Project Summary:

Attack Helicopter (Horizon 2)Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 29 June 2019.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (15th Strike Wing)

Quantity: no specific quantity, cost dependent

* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government deal, originally with Turkish Ministry of Defense (cancelled)

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA) process.

* SARO Release/s:

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: TBA

* Contract Price: TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: TBA

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFAHAcquisition 

* Status: for re-evaluation by PAF TWG after deal with Turkish Ministry of Defense and TAI fell through.


First post, edit and release: 29 June 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


  1. Sir Max, do you think the same problem could affect Indonesia Kaplan Tank production plan the TNI ordered this year?

  2. The quickest option is buy second hand attack helicopters through government to government

  3. Japan can unload some AH-1, US is also disposing the older AH-1W based on the older report.

  4. Why not check A129 mangusta of agusta Italy who we have mou. It is a same variant. Only need to verify the cost if the same.

    1. Agusta doesn't manufacture a129 mangusta anymore.

  5. I am staying positive, at least, it gave the apache another chance

  6. typical american Cu**** they want the whole world to buy from them.. make those who don't to suffer. squeeze them with sanction. what happens to free world? free to choose which you're preference. but according to them they spreading democracy lol. yet the have still the nerve to call us to turkey as friends and ally after they slap us on the face. typical american hero's

  7. Eurocopter Tiger nalang bilhin ng pinas

  8. Fuck turkey! What did they done!! They must never purchased that S-400s, good bye T-129 atak.

  9. If its Viper it would be 22 Billion in pesos and but only 13.8 B pesos lang ang alloted para sa Attact Heli program ng Pinas diba?mukhan mahal nga.


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