Turkish-Italian chopper aces maiden test flight
Prototypes of Turkish T-129 attack helicopters, which will be co-produced by Turkey and Italy, impressed dozens of politicians, military officers and bureaucrats in their first test flight in Milan yesterday. Turkey's Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and Italian AgustaWestland won the bid in 2007 to coproduce 51 (plus 40 optional) helicopters for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). The combat and reconnaissance helicopter, an enhanced version of AgustaWestland's A-129s, will be named T-129 ATAK. The T-129 helicopter, the first Turkish attack helicopter, made its maiden flight at AgustaWestland's Milan facility, marking a significant milestone in the development of the Turkish defense industry. During the test flight, the new T-129 performed general maneuvers at varying speeds. "The T-129 has done maneuvers that no helicopter in its class can," Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said afterwards. "It was really good, even though this is only a prototype." He said the helicopter was still unarmed, and said he had no doubt it will be the most valued attack craft of the Turkish army once its firing systems are installed. He stressed that the computers and software controlling the T-129's flight, arms and maneuvering characteristics were produced by Turkish engineers. AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi said a test flight of the helicopter with its weapons system is slated for next year. TAI General Manager Murat Dortkasli said the first helicopters will begin production in Turkey in 2010, with mass production starting in 2013. The helicopter will be equipped with avionic and weapons systems designed and produced in Turkey. The mission computer and targeting, navigation, communication and electronic warfare systems will be developed and produced by ASELSAN, a leading Turkish defense company. The program agreement also provides TAI with the right to sell and market the T-129 ATAK helicopter worldwide. The first T-129s are planned to be delivered to the TSK in 2013. TAI will have the right to use and administer the intellectual property of the T-129 ATAK helicopter, and it will be the sole source for its work share under the ATAK program for all potential future worldwide sales of the T-129 ATAK helicopter.