US stops delivery of Turkish gunship helicopters to Pakistan
The United States has blocked Turkey from supplying 30 locally-made attack helicopters to Pakistan.
According to Bloomberg News, Turkey’s presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın told reporters on Monday that “the US has blocked Turkey’s helicopter sale to Pakistan, which will lead to Islamabad buying it from China.”
The ATAK T-129 is a multi-role, twin-engine, tandem seat, all-weather attack helicopter established on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform and is furnished with American engines.
The US is delaying export clearance for the LHTEC engine.
The blockade could “cause more harm” to US interests, Kalın added.
Pakistan and Turkey signed a $1.5 billion deal for the Turkish-made helicopter gunships in July 2018.
However, the delivery date was pushed back after the Pentagon declined to issue the Turkish company an export license for the engines.
Kalın mentioned the US blockade while briefing journalists on the effect of US sanctions on Turkey, prompted by Ankara’s decision to buy S-400 missiles from Russia.
He said Turkey was coerced to buy Russian missiles as Washington had refused to supply Patriot air defense missile systems to Ankara on favorable terms.
The sanctions are intended to deter any country from signing military deals with Russia and limit US loans and credits to a defaulter.
Developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in cooperation with a European firm, Agusta-Westland, the ATAK T-129 helicopter is designed for advanced attack and investigation missions in hot and high environments in both day and night conditions.
The US announced the first blockade in July 2019, days before a meeting between the former US president, Donald J. Trump, and the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, in Washington.
In January 2020, the chief of Turkey’s Defence Industries (SSB) said that Ankara and Islamabad had postponed the delivery deal by another year to ensure a smooth delivery.
The agreement gives Pakistan a choice to buy the Chinese Z-10 helicopters should the Turkish deal not materialize.
According to the Turkish media reports, the Turkish-built T-129 ATAK helicopter is still on the Pakistan Armed Forces shopping list.
In August 2020, Turkey employed a Washington law firm to lobby with the US administration and Congress for obtaining an export license which will help complete its biggest-ever defense deal with Pakistan.
The US firm Greenberg Traurig and its contractor were paid a monthly retainer of $25,000 to lobby for the deal.
However, the latest blockade is likely to force the two allies to cancel the deal, convincing Islamabad to look for other options.
What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments below.