Turkey’s inability to sell its combat helicopters to Pakistan due to US sanctions has forced the South Asian nation to turn to China, Washington’s biggest global rival.
It all began with Turkey’s decision to go ahead with the purchase of S-400 air defense systems from Russia despite repeated warnings from the US. Washington finally imposed sanctions on Ankara and scrapped the deal for the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters.
This US also put curbs on Turkey’s other military exports, including combat helicopters.
Washington’s move has not only hit Ankara, but it has also repercussions for Pakistan, which has been looking to purchase Turkey’s T-129 ATAK helicopters ever since conducting a formal test in 2017.
The ATAK T-129 is a twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter based on the Italian Agusta A129 Mangusta platform. Pakistan has been looking to procure this helicopter to improve its offensive capabilities.
According to Pakistani analysts, the Turkish helicopters are perfect for the country as they can work under all circumstances. The helicopters can also carry out day-and-night surveillance operations.
However, the deal has faced a number of delays due to the US announcing the first blockade in July 2019, days before a meeting between the former US President Donald Trump, and Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington.
Turkey In A Fix
Although the helicopter’s weapons, avionics, and airframes have been built by Turkey, the US has developed its engines and fans.
The helicopters are powered by two T800-4A engines, manufactured by LHTEC, a joint venture between the American firm Honeywell and the British company Rolls-Royce.
The presence of an American engine on the helicopter is the fundamental reason why the US does not allow Ankara to supply the choppers to Pakistan.
While Turkey reserves the rights to the helicopter’s design, as per the terms of the partnership between Ankara and Washington, the US can ban the sale of this helicopter to a third country, in this case, Pakistan.
Following the US sanctions, Turkey hired a Washington law firm to lobby with the US administration and Congress for securing an export license for the helicopter in August last year. This would have been Turkey’s biggest-ever defense deal with Pakistan.
Turkey Confirm’s US Intervention
Earlier this week, Turkish Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin confirmed that Washington has prevented the country from supplying 30 homegrown attack helicopters to Pakistan.
“The US has blocked Turkey’s helicopter sale to Pakistan, which will likely lead to Islamabad buying it from China,” Kalin was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
For decades, China has been a major defense supplier for Pakistan. The Chinese Z-10 helicopters will be next in line if the Turkish deal falls through.
Developed by Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC), the Z-10 is a medium attack helicopter developed for the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force.
The choppers have been designed primarily for carrying out anti-tank warfare missions; it also possesses the ability to conduct secondary air-to-air combat capability.
The helicopters can be welcome additions to the Pakistani military as they are as good as those developed by the US and European firms, says Pakistani Army Brigadier Farooq Hameed (retired).
“China’s aviation technology has developed well over the past 15 years and now it is as good as western technology,” he maintains.