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Separated at birth: here are all the differences between the version of the attack helicopter used by the Italian Army and the Army of Ankara
Looks can be deceiving, even in the field of military helicopters. For this we start from a premise: if you think the TAI T129 ATAK is simply the export version of the Italian A129 Mangusta, you are wrong. The multi-role attack helicopter developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in collaboration with AgustaWestland can in fact be considered a custom built helicopter made with the best of Turkish technology and, above all, designed specifically for the needs of the armed forces of Ankara.
In the photogallery: T129 ATAK on display at ILA Berlin 2014
T-129 ATAK: THE STORY
It all began in 2007, when Turkey announced an agreement with AgustaWestland for the development and production of 51 attack helicopters (which became 61 in 2010) based on the A129 Mangusta. In 2007, the A129 was already in service with the Italian Army for over 15 years, but the Turkish armed forces wanted a 'tailor made' version of the helicopter to the needs of the Ordusu, a detail that will change profoundly the technical specifications of the T129 ATAK.
In the video: T129 ATAK: The best of Turkish military industry
The agreement was formalized a year later, when the collaboration actually entered into force. The TAI is responsible for the development of avionics, weapons systems, suites self defense, propulsion, and the technology used for the integrated helmet. It's a brand new project : Turkey owns the intellectual property rights and marketing, and can even export its version of the helicopter.
The maiden flight of the T129 ATAK was performed on September 28, 2009, when the first prototype (named P1) took off from AgustaWestland plant in Vergiate. The first two test airframes were assembled in Italy, before moving production to Turkey. In 2010 the P1 was involved in an accident (pictured below) during a test flight, the T129 crashed after a sudden loss of power to the tail rotor, which took place while the helicopter was flying at an altitude of 1,500 feet. Both crew members (including the Italian test pilot Luigi Cassioli) survived the accident.
T-129 ATAK: A STRONGER MANGUSTA
The T129 ATAK can be considered like a powerful A129 Mangusta, faster, with increased range and greater load capacity. The helicopter has been optimized to operate in hot and high conditions, and it is powered by two LHTEC T800 turboshafts (CTS800-4) manufactured under license by Tusas Engine Industries. The engines are capable of a maximum power of 1,014 kW (1,361 shp) each.
It is a considerable increase in terms of power compared to the Italian counterpart, which mounts a pair of Rolls-Royce Gem 2 with 'only' 664 kW. So much power is used to support a higher maximum takeoff weight (5 tonnes against 4.6 of the Mongoose), to ensure a faster rate of climb (14 m / s vs 10.2 m / s) and the ability to operate at a even higher maximum usable altitude (6,000 versus 4,725 meters). Even in terms of speed, the T-129 ATAK is only a distant cousin of the A129: the maximum speed of the ATAK is set to 294 km/h, while the cruise speed is 269 km / h against the 229 km/ h of the Mangusta.
AVIONICS AND WEAPONS MADE IN TURKEY
For the development of the radar system of the T129 ATAK, the Turkish armed forces have given rise to a consortium which included the University of Bilkent. The engineering efforts have led to the development of a millimeter-wave radar called MILDAR, a project similar to the American Longbow or to Israeli IAI / ELTA.
On the offensive, the ATAK tip on a front 20mm cannon, coupled with a combination of laser-guided rockets Roketsan Cirit 70mm, up to 2 air-to-air Stinger, Mistral or AIM-9 Sidewinder, 8 air-to-ground AGM-114 Hellfire, BGM-71 TOW, Hydra 70, Spike-ER, UMTAS, OMTAS and Sura D / Snora. For version T129A, which was commissioned in 2010 (9 pieces in all), there is provided the use of advanced anti-tank missiles.