Turkish army tanks take part in a parade marking the 91st anniversary of Victory Day in Ankara in Aug. 2013. Turkey's talks with Japan for an engine for the Altay tank broke down because of Turkish intentions to export the indigenous tank and Japan's reluctance to license the joint engine, a Turkish official said. (Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images)
ANKARA — Turkey’s months-long negotiations with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for joint development and production of an engine for the Altay, a planned indigenous Turkish tank, have failed largely due to the Japanese government’s near total ban on arms exports.
Turkey’s procurement and industry officials had been in talks with Mitsubishi since last year to co-produce an engine to power the Altay, a new generation main battle tank being developed by Turkish armored vehicles manufacturer Otokar.
“Such a deal has gone off our agenda,” Murad Bayar, Turkey’s chief procurement official. “We have agreed with Japanese officials to focus on other areas of cooperation [in defense].”
Japan, which renounced the right to wage war in its postwar constitution, effectively banned arms exports in 1967. Under new guidelines being developed by Japan’s government, exports would be approved by the Trade Ministry if they were judged to serve peaceful missions or if joint development of a weapon was deemed to enhance national security.
Talks with Japan for an engine for the Altay broke down because of Turkish intentions to export the indigenous tank and Japan’s reluctance to license the joint engine, a senior Turkish procurement official said.
A Japanese diplomatic source declined to comment. One Turkish industry source dealing with Mitsubishi confirmed that the deal was off the agenda.
The procurement official said Turkey would seek new options to develop the engine with foreign know-how.
“New ideas will emerge quickly, we hope. This is going to be a promising, large market when you think of the indigenous tank program,” he said.
Turkey plans to initially build a batch of 250 tanks, with scores of follow-on orders.
Since the mid-1990s, Turkey has been looking for a suitable engine for the Altay. In 2008, Japan announced that it would manufacture its own tank — and an engine to power it — to protect its homeland against a North Korean invasion.
If it went ahead, the Turkish-Japanese plan would have marked an historic departure from Turkey’s traditional engine supplier, MTU of Germany. Sources say the Germans have been reluctant to share critical engine technology and also have been skeptical about any potential future export licenses for the Altay.