Ankara and Islamabad have recently reached a deal on the sale of a load of 30 Turkish-made helicopters said to be worth $1.5 billion. The largest-ever defence contract between the two countries is also a boon to the Turkish defence industry.
Ankara and Islamabad have signed a deal for the sale of 30 Turkish attack helicopters recently, strengthening the military relations between the two all weather friends.
The agreement was announced on May 24, the same day President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the election manifesto of Turkey’s governing Justice and Development (AK) Party.
It’s not confirmed by the officials, but the Turkish media has reported that the contract would be worth about $1.5 billion making it the largest-ever defence contract between Turkey and Pakistan.
First buyer for first Turkey-made choppers
The ATAK helicopters are Ankara's first domestic aircraft product.
The helicopter was developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) under license from the Italian-British AgustaWestland and it was added to the inventory of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) in 2014.
Within the project, the TAI, maker of the chopper, will deliver a total of 91 helicopters to the TAF and nine more to the Interior Ministry.
A tandem seat, twin-engine, NATO-interoperable helicopter developed for the attack, armed reconnaissance, precision strike and deep strike missions under any weather conditions.
For close combat support missions, a 20mm turreted gun with a capacity of 500 rounds and 70mm Classic Rockets with a capacity of 76 rockets have been integrated.
For multipurpose missions, 16 x CIRIT 70mm laser-guided air-to-ground missiles, 8 x UMTAS long-range anti-tank missiles and 8 x STINGER air-to-air missiles are integrated in addition to advanced electro-optical systems and electronic warfare.
Before the two countries inked the deal, the choppers were tested in Pakistan. And they also participated in a fly-past ceremony in capital Islamabad during "Pakistan Day" celebrations on March 23 this year.
“Turkey-Pakistan military ties are historic and not new. The two air forces are one of the closest in terms of cooperation, exchange of training, procurement and strategic partnerships. However this deal takes the relationship into another domain,” said Kamal Alam, a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, RUSI, a London-based defence and security think tank.
'We are brothers'
Pakistan and Turkey are traditional allies and have strong defence and economic ties.
The two countries have enjoyed good relations since the foundation of the two states in the first half of the 20th century despite being under the rule of different governments and military regimes.
President Erdogan is the first foreign dignitary to have addressed Pakistan’s apex constitutional forum thrice.
“The relations between Turkey and Pakistan are of exclusive nature far beyond diplomatic contacts between two states. We are two brotherly countries, not in words but in real meaning,” said Erdogan in his speech.
Turkey is one of the key participants in Pakistan's International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) and companies from both sides always showed interest to each other’s products.
In early 2000, the two countries decided to improve defence ties.
A year later, their air forces signed an exchange program, and a total of 1,494 Pakistani military personnel have received their military education in Turkey since then.
During the same period, 125 Turkish military personnel participated in educational programs at Pakistan War Colleges and Pakistan National Defense Academy.
Pakistan has also supplied Turkey with small arms in accordance with NATO specifications.
In 2009, the High Level Cooperation Council which was established between the countries and then upgraded to High Level Strategic Cooperation Council.
Several meetings of the council were held, and more than 60 agreements and documents have been signed so far within this mechanism.
Another deal, worth $80 million, was signed between Pakistan's government and a Turkish contractor in 2013 for the construction of a tanker for Pakistani Navy.
In 2015, Turkey and Pakistan also agreed to cooperate in development and production of tactical unmanned aerial vehicles.
A few weeks later, Turkey announced that it would provide Pakistan with 34 T-37 fighter-cum-training aircraft and its spare parts on a gratis basis.
In 2016, TAI agreed to modernise the Pakistan Air Force’s fleet of F-16s at a cost of $75 million.
A Turkish defence contractor won a contract in March for the mid-life upgrade of the second of three Agosta 90B-class, also known as Khalid-class, diesel-electric attack submarines equipped with air-independent propulsion systems in service with the Pakistan Navy.
“They have now set up MOUs (memorandums of understanding) in research and development and future prospects of potentially producing aviation and other military assets. Both militaries also face threats from sanctions and embargoes from the Capitol Hill. So it will bring them even closer in objectives,” Alam added.