(File photo)

MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that two of the six units of the Turkish-made T129 "ATAK" attack helicopters it has acquired arrived at Clark Air Base, Pampanga early Wednesday.

"The PAF welcomes the arrival of two units of T129 'ATAK' helicopters onboard the (Airbus) A-400M from Turkey at 30 minutes past midnight 09 March 2022 at Clark Air Base, Mabalacat City, Pampanga," Air Force spokesperson, Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano, said in a message to reporters.

The A-400Ms are cargo aircraft of the Turkish Air Force.

In a separate message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Mariano said one of the A-400Ms carried the two helicopters while the other aircraft transported the initial logistics requirement of the two T129s.

He also said the helicopters would undergo technical inspection and flight tests before being accepted for service to the PAF.

"It will undergo inspection, it will undergo acceptance (test), test flights before the acceptance ceremonies can be done and it will go through a lot of orientation in (the) country, together with the pilots and the crew," Mariano said.

He added that he expects the two T129 helicopters to be commissioned within one or two months at the most.

Mariano said the Turkish-made attack helicopters are expected to enhance the "surface strike system" of the Air Force.

The six T129s were acquired by the PAF from the Turkish Aerospace Industries in line with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Plan - Horizon 2.

Mariano said the PAF's 15th Strike Wing would operate the T129s, which will be used for close-air support for ground troops and armed surveillance and reconnaissance.

"The T129 is a dedicated attack helicopter, much like the (Bell) AH-1S Cobra. This new system will complement the several surface strike systems of the Air Force and will be another game-changer in support to the numerous missions of the AFP," he added.

The first two units were supposed to be delivered in December but this did not push through for still unknown reasons.

"This is the total contract price for the 6 units of T129 helicopters -- PHP13,727,248,240. This is to include the logistics support and training of pilots and crew in Turkey," he added.

The T129 is a twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform and is designed for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions in hot and high environments and rough geography in both day and night conditions.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana signed the contract for the acquisition of the Turkish attack helicopters in July 2020.

The PAF is looking at acquiring dedicated but affordable attack helicopters to beef up its fleets of lightly-armed helicopters, such as the MG-520 and AW-109E that are being used for counter-terror and ground support missions.

As this developed, the PAF and the Philippine Army (PA) formally opened its interoperability exercise dubbed "PAF-PA IOX" at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Tuesday.

Present during the opening ceremonies were AFP chief Gen. Andres C. Centino who served as guest-of-honor; PAF head Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas; and PA commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr.

The PAF-PA IOX is the first major exercise between the two branches of the AFP.

The four-day activity will cover subject matter expert exchanges, communications exercises, fast rope insertion and extrication, close-air support, and a field training exercise that will be participated in by different units of the PAF and PA.

PAF aircraft, such as the Embraer A-29B "Super Tucano", AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopter, Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50PH jet fighters, Bell 412 and S-70i "Black Hawk" combat utility helicopters will be used during the exercises.

The joint exercise aims to enhance interoperability and combat readiness and effectiveness of the Air Force and the Army.

The PAF and the PA will both be introduced to the new capabilities, reinforce working relations, evaluate tactics, techniques, and procedures, and achieve seamless air-to-ground communications and operations. (PNA)