Pakistan cancels purchase of Turkish T129 ATAK helicopters, and seeks replacement from China

Gastón Dubois

Updated on:


As a result of delays, Pakistan decided to cancel the acquisition of 30 T129 ATAK attack helicopters it ordered in 2018 and instead negotiates with China for the purchase of the Z-10ME.

According to several sources, the Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations of the Pakistani Armed Forces confirmed the cancellation of the contract with Turkey and the ongoing talks for the purchase of Z-10ME attack helicopters from China.

The external restriction

The deal signed in 2018 with Turkish Aerospace Industries for some 30 T129 ATAK helicopters, valued at $1.5 billion, experienced significant delays due to the lack of permission from the U.S. for the export of the LHTEC T800-4A engines, which is a variant of the CTS800 engine, jointly developed by Honeywell and Rolls-Royce. It has a length of 0.85 m, a diameter of 0.56 m, weighs about 154 kg, and develops a power output of 1,014 kW. The T-129 carries 2 of these.


This export permit was recently granted to the Philippines, which had negotiated the purchase of six units, also in 2018. According to the latest available information, the first units of the Philippine T129s would have been received in December.

Other potential customers interested in the Turkish helicopter are Morocco  ( 22 units), Irak (12 units), and the Nigerian Air Force has also shown interest in the model. But as long as the ATAK does not see its American engines replaced by others of Ukrainian or Turkish origin, its export potential will be limited by the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the interested nations.


According to its manufacturer, the Z10ME is an advanced attack helicopter in the 6-ton category, which has day/night combat capability and can carry a variety of weapons such as air-to-ground missiles, air-to-air missiles, rockets, and cannons.

The Z10ME is capable of carrying out attacks on fortifications, armored and non-armored mobile ground targets, as well as attacking air targets such as enemy helicopters.


In terms of performance, capabilities, sensors, and equipment, it is a weapon system equivalent to the T129 ATAK, which should replace it.

If the purchase is completed, Pakistan would become the first export customer of the Chinese helicopter, just as it was the first foreign customer of the J-10CE, acquired to cope with the Indian Air Force’s purchase of the Dassault Rafale.

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