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Philippine Air Force Finalizes T129 Helicopter Acquisition from Türkiye.

The Philippine Air Force confirmed on May 19, 2024, the arrival of the last two T129 combat helicopters from Turkish Aerospace Industries, finalizing a significant acquisition for the country's military modernization efforts. This delivery, part of the Horizon 2 program, was initially expected in early 2023 but was delayed due to technical inspections before being commissioned in May 2024.
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The T129 ATAK multirole combat helicopter is equipped with a 20mm turreted gun with a capacity of 500 rounds and 70mm Classic Rockets with a capacity of 76 rockets (Picture source: Philippine Air Force)

The helicopters arrived at Major Danilo Atienza Air Base in Cavite on May 17, 2024. A ceremony marking their arrival included key figures from the Philippine Air Combat Command, the 15th Strike Wing, and other unit commanders, as well as representatives from the Philippine Air Force. These two helicopters, designated No. 1505 and No. 1506, are the fifth and sixth T129 Atak helicopters acquired under a $269 million government-to-government agreement with Turkey. 

Known for their high performance in challenging conditions, the T129 helicopters are designed for day and night missions and are equipped with advanced observation and targeting systems, precision weapon capabilities, and lethal fire support technology. These features are expected to significantly enhance the combat effectiveness of the Philippine Air Force, particularly in urban warfare scenarios. The acquisition of these helicopters comes as the Philippines continues to realign its military modernization program in response to growing tensions with China in the South China Sea. According to Philippine Army Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner, these changes aim to protect the country’s territories, with a particular focus on Thitu Island, one of several disputed islands in the region.

The Philippines' territorial defense strategy, released last year, prioritizes the protection of islands claimed by the country, particularly in the West Philippine Sea. This includes Thitu Island, Loaita Cay, West York Island, Flat Island, and Nanshan Island. The arrival of the T129 helicopters represents a strategic enhancement of the country's defense posture in this contested area.

The T129 ATAK multirole combat helicopter has been specially optimized to meet the performance requirements in hot and high-altitude conditions for the Turkish Armed Forces. This tandem-seat, twin-engine, NATO-interoperable attack helicopter is designed for attack, armed reconnaissance, precision strike, and deep strike missions in all environments, day and night, and regardless of weather conditions. It features asymmetric weapon loading capability, allowing for the effective use of all weapons according to mission requirements. For close combat support missions, it is equipped with a 20mm turreted gun with a capacity of 500 rounds and 70mm Classic Rockets with a capacity of 76 rockets. For multipurpose missions, it integrates 16 CIRIT 70mm Laser Guided Air-to-Ground Missiles, 8 UMTAS Long Range Anti-Tank Missiles, and 8 STINGER Air-to-Air Missiles, alongside state-of-the-art EW and EO systems.

The T129 ATAK cockpit provides excellent situational awareness through wide visibility arcs and integrated mission and communication systems. The Aselflir-300T targeting sight system enhances image quality and range performance with real-time image processing and multiple target tracking, utilizing a thermal camera, laser rangefinder, designator, and spot tracker. The AVCI Helmet Mounted Display System offers integrated display capabilities to the crew for extensive mission functionality. Under the Turkish ATAK Program, 91 T129 ATAK Helicopters (59 plus 32 optional) will be delivered to the Turkish Land Forces and 27 (24 plus 3 optional) to the Ministry of Interior, with more than 50 helicopters already delivered. Additionally, Pakistan has ordered 30 units, and the Philippines 8 to 10 units.

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