Let’s face it — the role of attack helicopters has evolved. They are no longer just used for armed reconnaissance and secondary strike missions. Instead, they have become indispensable in high-end conventional warfare and counter-insurgency operations as well as the premier platform for close air support missions. As a result, attack helicopters have become crucial assets in any battle plan, experiencing a paradigm shift in modern warfare and military strategy.
Who Is The T129 ATAK Designed For?
The T129 ATAK helicopter was designed for the Turkish Armed Forces in cooperation between Turkish Aerospace Industries and AgustaWestland of the UK and Italy.
The T129 ATAK fits well in any army looking for an all-around attack helicopter with high firepower, rapid firing rate, and low maintenance cost. The helicopter is first and foremost built for the Turkish military, but Turkey is offering it to other countries as well.
The Boeing AH-64 Apache made in the US is probably the best attack helicopter in the world given its long operational flight record and combat performance.
But has the Apache, now approaching its 25th birthday met its match in the form of this upstart platform from Turkey?
T129 ATAK Helicopter – Features at a glance
The T129 ATAK helicopter is powered by two powerful engines that generate up to 2,580 HP each, enabling it to fly at a speed of around 285 km/h.
It can reach an altitude of 6,000 feet and a range of 500 miles; it can survive a rate of descent of 23 ft/s. The ATAK helicopter has a maximum take-off weight of 16,000 lbs, which can be further increased up to 18,000 lbs with external fuel tanks. This is significantly higher than that of other helicopters of this type.
The helicopter can seat up to two crew members. It is armed with three powerful weapons — two short-range missiles and a 20 mm gun. The ATAK helicopter can also provide targeting data to other helicopter gunships and ground-based units.
Why is the T129 ATAK a critical addition to the Turkish Armed Forces?
The Turkish government has invested heavily in developing this helicopter as it is expected to be one of the most advanced helicopters in the world. Its take-off weight and other advanced features make the ATAK helicopter a unique machine expected to provide the Turkish Armed Forces with a wide range of capabilities.
The helicopter can carry many weapons, including anti-tank missiles, guided rockets, and torpedoes. It can also carry different types of sensors, including multi-spectral electro-optical sensors, synthetic aperture radars, and signal intelligence sensors (SIGINT).
The ATAK helicopter can also be modified to fulfill several other functions, including search and rescue and medical evacuation.
T129 ATAK Operational Abilities
The T129 ATAK helicopter is equipped with a state-of-the-art avionics system, which enables it to detect and track enemy targets. It can engage hostile ground units with accurate short-range missiles and deliver precision-guided munitions to the enemy. In addition, the helicopter provides real-time targeting data to other helicopters and ground forces.
It has an advanced self-protection system that detects and jams enemy radar systems. The aircraft also has a decoy system, which can lure enemy missiles away from the ATAK helicopter by giving off false targeting data.
T129 ATAK vs. AH 64E Apache
Regarding range, The ATAK can outrange the Apache by nearly 100km but the Apache is faster by nearly 50mph.
The ATAK helicopter is also much cheaper than an Apache helicopter, and the cost of operating it is also lower as well. This means that Turkey can purchase and maintain more of these helicopters for the same budget.
Both the ATAK and Apache helicopter carry about the same number of weapons on four external hardpoints on wing pylons on both sides.. The weapons mix of the ATAKs includes 8 UMTAS 160 mm long-range anti-tank missiles, 76 unguided 70mm rockets for close air support, 16 CIRIT 70 mm missiles or 8 air launched Stinger short-range air-to-air missiles for attacking other helicopters or aircraft.
The Apache can carry a mix of air-to-air missiles like the (Stinger, AIM-9 Sidewinder, Mistral, and Sidearm) and the advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS), formerly known as Hydra, in both guided and unguided 70mm rockets.
The ATAK carries a 20mm cannon with three rotating barrels firing 500 rounds of ammunition while the Apache has a 30mm gun firing from a single barrel with 1,200 rounds per minute.
Overall, the answer as to which helicopter is the better attack helicopter is probably still the Apache, because of its higher speed, heavier and more varied armaments load, and its avionics and sensor packages. Not to mention crew quality. No military in the world gives if helicopter pilots more flight time and live fire training than the US Army and in an armed conflict the better trained and better-equipped side generally wins.