ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is negotiating the purchase of up to 100 South Korean-made engines and transmissions to power its first indigenous tank in the making, the Altay.

Turkey’s top defense procurement official, Ismail Demir, said negotiations with two South Korean companies are focused on the quantity of power packs (which the engine and transmission make up) that would be supplied for the Altay program.

“We must set a quantity,” Demir said. “We are talking about 50 to 100.”

He added that an agreed quantity would be followed by setting a price. Turkey, he explained, wants to ensure the Altay has enough foreign-made power packs while the country makes its own version, dubbed Batu, to power the tanks.

“[The Korean solution] has components supplied from abroad [non-Korean sources]. We want to produce those locally for the Batu program,” Demir said.

In October, Turkey and South Korea signed a letter of intent under which two Korean companies would supply engines and transmission mechanisms for the Altay. Turkish armored vehicles manufacturer BMC, which makes the Altay, has been negotiating strategic agreements with two South Korean companies for joint work on a power pack for the new tank.

Doosan and S&T Dynamics were expected to supply the know-how for the engine and transmission mechanism so the power pack could be co-produced in Turkey. However, the co-production option did not go ahead as planned, and it appears Turkey will execute an off-the-shelf acquisition of the Korean power pack, Turkish sources said.

Under the Altay tank deal, the South Korean companies will supply the power pack and assist with integrating it into the new-generation tank. A test phase will follow. If all goes well, the Altays may be powered by the two firms within 18 months.

BMC won the multibillion-dollar Altay contract in November 2018. The contract involves the production of an initial batch of 250 units, life-cycle logistical support, and the establishment by the contractor of a tank systems technology center and its operation. As part of the contract, BMC will design, develop and produce a tank with an unmanned fire control unit.

The Altay program is broken into two phases: T1 and T2. T1 covers the first 250 units, and T2 involves the advanced version of the tank. Turkey plans to eventually produce 1,000 Altays, to be followed by an unmanned version.

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.

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