"At some point in [the] not-so-distant future, things will move ahead," a senior SSM official said. "All major programs will gain pace."
Another SSM official familiar with the tank program said: "We were hoping to decide on the modality of the serial production program before the end of the year. Now there may be delays."
He did not comment on whether there will be sole-source acquisition or competition but said that the per unit price in Otokar's original bid was "surprisingly high." He did not elaborate on the company's BAFO.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, several industry sources agreed that the Turkish government will go for the competition option. They also agreed that rival manufacturer BMC's entry into the arena has changed the whole picture.
BMC's local partner, businessman Ethem Sancak, is known to be a close friend of Turkey's authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Qatari investment fund owns 50 percent of BMC. Qatar is Erdogan's best political ally in the Middle East.
In August, BMC, Germany's Rheinmetall AG and the Malaysia-based Etika Strategi announced a Turkey-based joint venture for cooperation in armored solutions. The companies said that the joint venture would focus on wheeled and tracked armored vehicles.
"Apparently the joint venture aims not just the Altay contract but also to sell the tank to Gulf, Malaysian and other Asian markets," according to an industry source.
The Altay program involves the production of 1,000 tanks, with an initial batch of 250. Last year a privately owned Turkish engine maker, TUMOSAN, signed a €190 million (US $206.35 million) contract with the government to design an engine for the Altay.
The Turkish Army has 720 German-made Leopard 1 and 2 tanks, 930 American M-60s, and 1,370 M-48s, most of which are Cold War-era tanks and need to be replaced.
Turkey's Aselsan is the subcontractor for the fire control system and command, control and communications information system. Also, state-owned MKEK was selected as the subcontractor for the 120mm primary weapon, while Roketsan will provide the armor.
Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.