SOURCE: Hindustan Times
Pakistan has signed a deal with Turkey for the purchase of 30 attack helicopters estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion, against the backdrop of a massive cut in military aid for Islamabad from Washington.
The confirmation of the deal that had been in the pipeline for more than three years was made in the manifesto released by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) ahead of the general election scheduled for June, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported.
The manifesto said that “a very short while ago a contract for the sale of 30 attack helicopters was signed with Pakistan”. It did not give further details.
The Turkish government did not disclose the cost of the deal for the T129 ATAK helicopters, but aerospace industry sources estimated the contract to be worth about $1.5 billion, almost equivalent to Turkey’s annual defence exports.
This will also be the largest defence deal between Turkey and Pakistan, which has turned to countries such as Russia for military hardware following sharp cuts in military aid from the US.
US civilian and military assistance for Pakistan plummeted from an average of more than $2.2 billion a year during the period immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks to $526 million in 2017, reflecting the strain in ties between the two sides. In January, the US suspended nearly $2 billion in security-related aid, saying Pakistan hasn’t acted decisively against terrorists on its soil.
In 2013, Pakistan’s Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works inked a deal to build a replenishment tanker designed by a Turkish company. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has also upgraded 41 F-16 fighter jets for the Pakistan Air Force.
Last November, Pakistan’s then defence production minister Rana Tanveer Hussain had said his country planned to procure 30 attack helicopters and four warships from Turkey.
The T129 ATAK helicopter was developed by TAI and Italy-based AgustaWestland. It was inducted into the Turkish armed forces in 2014. In March, T129 ATAK helicopters from Turkey participated in a fly-past in Islamabad to mark Pakistan’s National Day.
The Pakistan Army has already ordered 12 US-made Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters, and it had been conducting trials with China’s Z-10 and Turkey’s T129.
The Pakistan Army Aviation commander, Maj Gen Nasir Shah, told the media earlier this year that the force planned to enhance its attack helicopter fleet with four Mi-35s procured from Russia and other platforms.