Turkish Aerospace Industries To Supply Six T-129 ATAK Helicopters To Nigeria

At the Farnborough Airshow in the UK, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) General Manager Prof. Dr. Temel Kotil confirmed the export of T129B ATAK attack helicopters to Nigeria. In an interview with CNN Türk, Kotil said that after the Philippines, the company will export T129B ATAK attack helicopters to Nigeria shortly. The contract’s value and other specifics, such as the quantity of Atak helicopters it covers, were not made clear by Kotil. However, according to news reports in the Turkish press, the company will deliver six T129B ATAK helicopters to Nigeria for about 270 million dollars, much like the Philippines contract.

It was already known that Nigeria was interested in purchasing T129B Atak attack helicopters to supplement its existing fleet of light attack helicopters, including the Russian Mil Mi24/35 Hind and Agusta A109 Power, and to help in the fight against terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISWAP. In this regard, Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, laid the foundation for the deal during his trip to Nigeria in October 2021. The governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Turkey signed the Defense Industry Cooperation Agreement during the visit. İsmail Demir, President of the Turkish Defense Industry, stated at the time, “we plan on putting these agreements with Nigeria into effect soon.”

A few weeks following the signing of the Defense Industry Cooperation Agreement between the two countries, the Nigerian Ministry of Defense announced a contract for the procurement of attack helicopters, and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) participated in the tender with the T-129B ATAK helicopter. HAL, an Indian company, and Airbus, a European helicopter manufacturer, were also significant participants in the tender. Bashir Salihi Magashi, the defense minister of Nigeria, then traveled to Turkey on December 18 and held a one-on-one meeting with Hulusi Akar, the Minister of National Defense of Turkey. Apart from exchanging views on bilateral and regional defense and security as well as defense industry cooperation, Nigerian Defense Minister Bashir Salihi Magashi declared his intention to purchase Turkish attack helicopters during the meeting in Istanbul.

The attack and reconnaissance helicopter T-129 ATAK was developed by TAI as the main contractor with technical assistance from Aselsan and the Italian firm AgustaWestland. One variation of the T-129 ATAK helicopter is for multipurpose missions and the other is for close-air support missions. Designed for close air support missions, the T129 A can carry up to 76 70mm unguided rockets and is equipped with a 20mm gun in the nose section that can rotate 90 degrees to the left and right, 50 degrees down, and 25 degrees up, with a 500-round capacity. The T129 B helicopter, on the other hand, can carry a 20mm 500-round cannon, 76 70mm unguided rockets, 8 UMTAS anti-tank missiles, 16 Cirit laser guided missiles, and 8 Air-to-Air Stinger missiles, in addition to modern electronic warfare equipment suitable for multi-purpose missions.

The T129 ATAK attack and reconnaissance helicopter developed by TAI / From TAI

The ATAK helicopters that the Nigerian Air Force will use to combat terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and ISWAP (Islamic State-West African Province), which have been operating in the country since the early 2000s, are powered by two 1362-horsepower LHTEC-CTS800-4A turboshaft engines produced under license from Rolls Royce and Honeywell. With an average mission load, ATAK can reach a speed of 274 kilometers per hour, stay in the air for 3 hours on standard fuel, reach a height of 6,096 m (20,000 ft), and have a maximum range of 519 kilometers. The robust performance that this engine, which was developed jointly by the United States and the UK, provides the helicopter also poses a significant issue for Turkey.

Two T129 ATAK helicopters developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) / From TAI

Because of the engine, the ATAK helicopter requires clearance from the United States to be exported to another country. However, the United States has imposed a series of sanctions on Ankara as a result of Turkey’s purchase of S-400 systems from Russia. In this context, the expected US approval for the contract between Turkey and Pakistan for 30 T129 ATAK helicopters worth 1.5 billion dollars was not given. However, the US Department of Defense subsequently granted export approval for the agreements with the Philippines and Nigeria but not for the agreement with Pakistan due to CAATSA restrictions. In this regard, TAI is developing its own helicopter engine, the TS1400, which has similar performance to the LHTEC CTS800-4A engine currently used in ATAK helicopters, in order to avoid being stuck with an export permit in the event of a future attack helicopter order.