• A file photo of a T129B ATAK attack helicopter. (Credit: Nigel Pittaway)
    A file photo of a T129B ATAK attack helicopter. (Credit: Nigel Pittaway)

The first T129B ATAK attack helicopters were delivered to the Philippines last week following a six month delay.

The two helicopters and other support equipment were ferried into Clark Airbase outside the Philippine capital Manila just after midnight local time on the 9th of March on board a pair of Turkish Air Force Airbus A400M airlifters.

The Philippines signed a $368 million government-to-government contract with Turkey in July 2020 for six T129Bs. The Philippines is funding these under the Horizon 2 phase of the Philippines armed forces modernization plan.

The T129s, which are based on the Agusta Westland A129 Mangusta design and manufactured by Turkey’s TAI, will be assigned to the 15th Strike Wing of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) like most of its combat-capable assets.

The unit is based at Danilo Atienza Air Base to the southeast of Manila.

The PAF had previously posted photos of two of the helicopters on its social media pages, with the delivery date having been pushed from September to November and then to December 2021.

The second pair of helicopters were due to arrive last month with the final pair scheduled for delivery in early 2023.

The T129Bs will complement a pair of used Bell AH-1S HueyCobra attack helicopters acquired from Jordan, along with armed light observation and transport helicopters in the PAF’s inventory.

These include the Leonardo A109E Power and MD Helicopters MD520G, both of which can be armed with gun and rocket pods. All these armed helicopter types are also assigned to the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing.

Helicopters are a vital capability for the Philippine military’s, efforts to fight rumbling a continuing communist insurgency throughout the country and separatist movements in the south, with attack helicopters always on the radar due to the complex security outlook for the U.S. ally.

However, the Philippines has also been recapitalizing its transport helicopter fleet with S-70i Blackhawks built under licence by Poland PZL-Mielec. These will complement the PAF’s fleet of Bell UH-1 Huey utility/transport helicopters.

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