PARIS --- Pakistan has agreed to extend the deadline for the delivery of 30 T-129 ATAK attack helicopters by one year, to allow Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to work around a US veto on the re-export of their turboshaft engines.
“Pakistan has agreed to give us another year [to resolve the problem]. We hope we will be able to develop our indigenous engine soon to power the T129,” Ismail Demir, the head of Turkey’s top procurement agency, said Jan. 6. “After one year, Pakistan may be satisfied with the level of progress in our engine program, or the U.S. may grant us the export license.”
TAI in 2018 signed a $1.5 billion contract to provide an initial batch of 30 T129 ATAK attack helicopters to Pakistan, assuming the US government would allow the re-export of their US-made LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines.
However, the United States are not allowing these engines to be re-exported to Pakistan, and TAI is now looking to Tusas Engine Industries, its sister company, to develop a new, indigenous engine to replace the T800.
While TEI is already developing turboshafts for its T626 utility helicopter and its future T429 large attack helicopter, it is not immediately clear that these will be able to meet Pakistan’s schedule, or provide sufficient performance to replace the T800 without degrading the helicopter’s performance.
TEI launched a “Turboshaft Engine Development Project (TEDP) in 2017 to decrease Turkey’s dependence on foreign sources while enabling domestic production of the engine systems, which constitute one of the most important components of these projects, and increasing the percentage of indigenous production in these projects,” according to its website.
The initiative aims to develop a complete capability to design, develop and test infrastructure for turbine engines, including a 1400 shp national engine to be integrated into the existing helicopters.
However, the TEDP is being planned over eight years, with the first production engines to be available in 2025, which will considerably exceed the one-year extension accepted by Pakistan.