ADAPAZARI, Turkey — Turkish government officials are predicting that a domestic armored vehicle company will deliver all prototypes of the country’s first national main battle tank by next year, “one or two years” ahead of time.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement Nov. 15, at a ceremony for the rollout of the first prototype in this western Turkish town.
More than four years after signing a $500 million contract with the private company Otokar, Turkey is looking forward to obtaining the first four Altay prototypes next year.
“The four prototypes will undergo performance tests throughout 2013, and then we will pass into the final prototypes and serial production,” Erdogan said. He did not give exact times.
Erdogan added that with improvements in the past 10 years, since his government came to power, Turkey will now have the “unmanned aerial vehicles that only the United States and Israel” have in the world.
“We are making arms that our Army needs, and that would be sold,” Erdogan said.
On July 29, 2008, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), Turkey’s procurement agency, and Otokar signed an agreement for the design, development and production of the four prototypes.
Later, South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem was tapped for the overall technical support business.
Turkey’s Aselsan was chosen as the subcontractor for the tank’s fire control system and command, control and communications information system. State-owned MKEK was selected as the subcontractor for the 120mm primary weapon, and Roketsan was tasked with providing the armor.
The tank was named after Army Gen. Fahrettin Altay, who commanded the 5th Cavalry Corps in the Turkish War of Independence.
Hyundai Rotem was tasked with working closely with Turkey’s MKEK on the development of the tank’s 120mm main gun. The South Korean company will work with Roketsan on the tank’s armor.
Accordingly, Otokar’s contract will be over when a total of four prototypes are built. As these prototypes will be accepted by the government’s procurement agency, a serial-production agreement will be signed.
Procurement officials said Otokar is expected to get the serial production job as well. The serial production agreement will likely be effective in 2017, and together with the expected foreign orders, a first batch of at least 200 tanks is expected to be produced. The Altay will likely be the world’s most modern tank in the 60-ton category by then, Turkish procurement officials said.
The tank will be operated by four soldiers. A mock-up of the first Altay was introduced to the Turkish public during the IDEF-2011 Fair in Istanbul.
The tank’s electromagnetic test center was opened here last year. The company’s director general, Serdar Gorguc, said the center could be used by the world’s military and civilian manufacturers, with the company’s permission.
But he and Kudret Onen, the head of the board of directors of Otokar, said the company would work without a partner if it were tasked with serial production. “We have all the capability to manufacture the tank,” Onen said.
Otokar also makes several other armored vehicles, the best known being the Cobra, a four-wheel-drive vehicle used for reconnaissance and area control by the Turkish security forces and the armies of several other countries. It also manufactures six-wheel and eight-wheel versions of the Arma. The Altay is Otokar’s first tracked vehicle.
Otokar also spearheads the Turkish defense industry’s export efforts, with the sale of several Cobras and the two types of Armas worth several hundred million dollars last year. The buyers are mainly in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Balkans.