Turkey & South Korea’s Altay Tank ProjectNov 25, 2012 17:36 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
Turkey’s tank fleet is currently made up of American M-48s and M-60s, some of which have been modernized with Israeli cooperation into M-60 Sabra tanks, plus a large contingent of German Leopard 1s and Leopard 2s. That is hardy surprising. America and Germany are Turkey’s 2 most important geopolitical relationships, and this is reflected in Turkey’s choice of defense industry partners. The country’s industrial offset requirements ensure that these manufacturers have a long history of local partnerships to draw upon.
In recent years, however, a pair of new players have begun to make an impact on the Turkish defense scene. One was Israel, whose firms specialized in sub-systems, upgrades, and UAVs. The other is the Republic of [South] Korea, who has made inroads in the Turkish market with turboprop training aircraft, mobile howitzers… and now, main battle tanks.
The Altay Program
Turkey’s new tank is named after Gen. Fahrettin Altay, a cavalry commander in Turkey’s War of Independence. The tank will use a 120mm smoothbore gun, with the usual 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and a pintle-mounted 12.7mm machin gun up top. Compared to the ROK’s K2 Black Panther, the Altay is reportedly longer, with an added road wheel and a slightly modified turret. It may also carry heavier armor.
Under this $400 million development deal, The Republic of Turkey shall own all design and intellectual property rights to the final vehicle. Turkey’s Otokar will build the tanks in cooperation with various sub-contractors, including:
- South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem (XK2 Black Panther base design, expertise and parts as required, help with modernization of Otokar’s factory in the northwestern province of Sakarya).
- Aselsan (fire control and C3I systems, other sub-systems)
- MTU Friedrichshafen (1,500 hp diesel engine. May be replaced by 1,800 hp Turkish engine if they can develop it)
- SSM’s STM group (C3I co-development with Aselsan)
- Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation, or MKE, (120mm/55 caliber main gun)
- Roketsan (Modular Armor Package)
The 2008 System Development deal includes the production of 4 prototypes worth $70 million dollars, and technology transfer worth $330 million dollars.
Once development is complete, a second set of production contracts will be signed. The Turks’ official goal was to design, test, and build the first Altay tank in 6.5 years, which would place the event in early 2015. So far, 2015 remains the target date for production to begin.
Turkey reportedly plans to produce 200-250 of the tanks locally.
Contracts and Key Events
ROK governments have been building a formidable local defense industry as a matter of policy, and those efforts are beginning to win export sales around the globe. The Altay project is just the latest payoff.
Relations with Turkey have been especially warm, owing in part to the Turks’ heroic combat record in the Korean War. In recent years, that combination of warm relations and solid products has led to Turkish orders worth hundreds of millions of dollars for KT-1 turboprop training aircraft, and K-9/K-10 derived “Firtina” mobile howitzers. In July 2007, South Korea’s inroads became undeniable, as discussions began concerning a deal to develop Turkey’s next generation tanks. That was a major upset, but it had yet to coalesce into a deal. By the end of July 2008, however, the ink was dry on a deal that made Korea’s new XK2 the basis of Turkey’s co-produced Altay tank.
2011 – 2012
Nov 15/12: With about $500 million invested in development to date, Otokar officially rolls out its first 2 Altay tank prototypes at its Sakarya plant. Prototype #1 is already in use for mobility tests, with over 2,000km of mileage under its treads. Prototype #2 will be used for firing tests. Any changes will feed back into the design and construction of prototypes #3-4.
Kudret ONEN, Head of Koc Holding Defence Industry Group and Otokar’s Chairman of the Board, says that the project currently has 550 engineers (260 at Otokar), and nearly 100 subcontractors. Mass production is still promised for 2015. Otokar [in Turkish].
June 11/12: Update. While announcing its vehicle lineup for Eurosatory 2012, Otokar provides a project update:
“The first phase of the project, ‘Conceptual Design Process’, has been completed in 2010. And we presented the full-scale model, which reflects the concept design of ALTAY, at IDEF Exhibition, last year. In scope of the ‘Detailed Design Process’ which is the second and the most critical phase of the project, ‘Preliminary Design Phase’, has been successfully completed by the last quarter of 2011. During this phase, manufacturing of prototypes took start in line with this process. Following the completion of the Second Phase, we’re planning to start the ‘Prototype Development and Qualification Phase’ which is the third and the last phase. In scope of the project plan we continue investing in the first prototype of the ALTAY tank which will be ready for testing by the last quarter of this year. In addition to our existing facilities within Otokar plant, we have recently established a new Tank Test Center with an investment of USD 10 million.”
March 27/12: SSM’s plan. Turkey’s SSM procurement agency has unveiled their new 5-year strategic plan, with timetables for key acquisitions. The plan commits to begin deliveries of the Altay tank by 2015. Hurriyet Daily News
2008 – 2010
July 6/09: US Pressure on Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports that the USA had pressured Israel out of Turkey’s tank competition, in order to give American firms better odds. Israel would have entered the competition with a strong position to build on. Turkey’s existing M-60 tanks were heavily modernized by Israeli firms, based on the same “Sabra” modification set that Israel used on its own M60s. Beyond Sabra, Israel’s current Merkava family tanks are purpose-built for the needs of warfare in the Middle East, with unique features for urban warfare and counter-terrorism conflicts.
Within a couple of years, worsening relations between Turkey’s Islamist government and Israel made any such project unthinkable anyway.
July 30/08: Representatives of the Turkish and South Korean governments sign the $400 million System Design & Development Memorandum of Understanding, making the Altay tank project a reality. This contract does not include the mass production process. The South Korean Defense Ministry added that:
“The signing of the contract on the ROK-Turkey technology cooperation in tank development is expected to greatly help boost the cooperation between the two countries in the defense industry sector, while the Ministry of Defense and the DAPA plan to provide full support to ensure smooth technology cooperation throughout the entire process of tank development from designing to production and testing.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Lee held ministerial talks with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara on July 28/08, in which the two agreed to continue building a cooperative relationship between their militaries…”
See: ROK Ministry of Defense | Otokar Aug 1/08 release | KOIS | Korea Times |Turkish Daily News (beforehand) | Turkish Daily News (post-deal) | Today’s Zaman (Turkey) | Aviation Week Ares | Agence France Presse.
Altay Development MoU
2005 – 2007
March 2007: According to a resolution adopted at the meeting of the National Defence Executive Committee, the Turkish government decides to begin contract negotiations with Otokar, as the nominee for prime contractor.
February 2007: Bid evaluation process, aiming to appoint the prime contractor, is completed in February 2007.
July 2006: RFP bids are submitted by Otokar’s team, and by the BMC-FNSS Consortium.
FNSS Savunma Sistemleri A.S. makes some of Turkey’s armored personnel carriers; it is a joint venture between BAE Systems and the Turkish Nurol Group. BMC Sanaye Ve Ticaret A.S. makes wheeled vehicles and trucks for the Turkish armed forces, and is part of the large Turkish conglomerate Cukurova Holding.
February 2006: SSM issues the project’s Request for Proposals.
April 2005: Feasibility study complete. The path forward is defined as “designing and development of the main battle tank inside Turkey by getting technical support and assistance from abroad whenever required.”
2005: The Turkish SSM defense procurement agency charges a 3-firm Turkish industrial consortium with a feasibility study to determine the production pattern for the Turkish National Main Battle Tank Project.
- Turkish SSM procurement agency – Turkish National Main Battle Tank Project
- Army Technology – Altay Main Battle Tank, Turkey
- Otokar corporate site
- Wikipedia – K2 Black Panther
- Technorati – Videos / South Korea Next Generation Main Battle Tank XK2
- Army Technology – K1A1 Main Battle Tank, South Korea
- Yonhap news service (May 27/08) – Seoul, Istanbul seal agreement on logistics cooperation. Military logistics, involving security of ammunition supply and other commodities in peace or war. This is an important agreement, and its signature makes the ROK’s status as a major Turkish arms supplier official.