ANKARA — Turkey’s military and procurement officials are mulling the options of upgrading hundreds of German-made Leopard 2 and US-made M60 main battle tanks.
One senior procurement official familiar with the program said that about 100 Leopard 2s and 300 M60s would go through an upgrade program. Industry sources say such upgrades would cost Ankara anywhere between $2 million to $3 million per tank. A bunch of 300 to 400 tank upgrades will have a total cost of more than $1 billion.
They say Turkey’s defense procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM in its Turkish acronym) would most likely award the Leopard 2 upgrade contract to the German Rheinmetall’s three-partner, Turkey-based venture, RBSS. Rheinmetall’s partners are the Turkish armored vehicles manufacturer BMC and the Malaysia-based Etika Strategi.
The planned M60 upgrades may mark the first Turkish-Israeli defense deal after the two former allies froze their diplomatic ties in 2010 but agreed on détente recently. Ankara and Jerusalem are expected to appoint ambassadors to each other within days after they downgraded diplomatic representation to the level of charge d’affaires in 2010.
In the 1990s a bunch of Turkish M60s went through a successful upgrade by Israeli Military Industries (IMI).
Meanwhile, the Turkish government is expected to announce a bidding for the serial production of hundreds of Altays, Turkey’s first indigenous, new generation main battle tank. The bidding is expected to open in the next few months.
In this multibillion-dollar contest Altay's developer, Otokar, is expected to race with BMC, the Turkish partner of RBSS.
In 2008, Otokar signed a $500 million contract with SSM for the development of four prototypes of the Altay.
At the beginning of this year Otokar said it completed the production of Altay prototypes and that the prototypes were now going through system qualification and acceptance tests.
In January, Otokar officially submitted its bid for serial production 250 Altay tanks and integrated logistical support for the program. A few moths later it revised its bid and submitted its best and final offer (BAFO) to SSM.
The Altay program involves the production of 1,000 tanks, with an initial bath of 250.
The Turkish Army has 720 German-made Leopard 1 and 2 tanks, 930 American M60s and 1,370 M48s, most of which are Cold War-era tanks and need replacement.
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.