By Bijan Razzaghi
The Pakistani Army has decided to procure the TAI/ Augusta Westlend T-129 attack helicopter built by Turkey to replace the ageing AH-1F Huey Cobra that Pakistan has been using since the 1970s. The T-129 will serve alongside a small fleet of American made Bell AH-1Z Vipers ordered in 2015. The T-129 is a Turkish built derivative of the Italian A-129 Mangusta attack helicopter developed in the 1980s.
The T-129 will give Pakistan’s army a improved anti tank and counter insurgency capability. The T-129 can utilize TOW wire guided anti tank missiles AGM-114 Hellfire laser guided anti tank missiles and Cirit laser guided rockets. In addition the T-129 has a 20mm cannon. The T-129 is also a maneuverable attack helicopter being able to navigate through mountainous terrain at high speeds.
Pakistan’s need for attack helicopters dates back to the evaluation of the Chinese WZ-10 and attempts to procure the American AH-64D Apache. Pakistan’s attack helicopters are used to counter the threat posed by militants in the country’s northwest and south west as well as counter India’s tank fleet on Pakistan’s eastern border.
A total of 30 T-129s are to be delivered with the potential for more orders. This purchase also highlights the increased defense cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan. Pakistan also bought a number or Turkish built Kirpi Mine Resistant Ambush Protected MRAP vehicles.