ANKARA, Turkey: The United States has prevented Turkey from supplying 30 locally made attack helicopters to Pakistan, Turkish Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said.
During a briefing on Monday, Kalin noted that the US blocked Turkey’s helicopter sale to Pakistan, which will likely lead to Islamabad buying it from China and cause more detriment to Washington down the line.
The ATAK-12 is a twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform and is equipped with American engines.
The US is holding up export clearance for the LHTEC engine. Turkey and Pakistan signed a $1.5 billion deal for the Turkish helicopter gunships in July 2018. But the delivery date was pushed back after the Pentagon refused to issue the Turkish company an export license for the engines.
United States’ blockade comes as the impact of US sanctions on Turkey, triggered by Ankara’s decision to buy S-400 missiles from Russia. The United States announced the first blockade in July 2019, days before a meeting between the former US president, Donald Trump, and Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington.
In January 2020, the head of Turkey’s Defence Industries (SSB) said that Ankara and Islamabad had extended the delivery deal by another year to ensure a smooth delivery. The agreement gives Pakistan the option to buy the Chinese Z-10 helicopters should the Turkish deal not materialise.
Reports in the Turkish media said that the Turkish-built T-129 ATAK helicopter was still on the Pakistan Army shopping list.
In August 2020, Turkey hired a Washington law firm to lobby with the US administration and Congress for securing an export licence, which will help complete its biggest-ever defence deal with Pakistan.
The latest blockade, however, is likely to force the two allies to cancel the deal, persuading Islamabad to look for other options. US officials in Washington were contacted for comments on the announcement made in Ankara but did not respond.