ANKARA — Turkey and South Korea have signed a letter of intent by which two Korean companies will supply engines and transmission mechanisms for the Altay, Turkey’s indigenous tank in the making.
The deal, penned Oct. 22, came at a meeting of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Korean Minister in charge of the country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Kang Eun-ho.
“This is a landmark development for the Altay program,” Cavusoglu announced via Twitter.
Turkish armored vehicles manufacturer BMC, the maker of the Altay, has been negotiating strategic agreements with two South Korean companies for joint work on a power pack for the new tank.
Under the deals, South Korean manufacturers Doosan and S&T Dynamics will supply the engine and transmission mechanism for the Altay.
“The letter of intent elevates the talks from a company-to-company to government-to-government level,” said one Turkish procurement official.
The Altay program has faced major delays due to failed access to significant components like the engine, transmission and armor.
Turkey had hoped to power the Altay with the German MTU engine and RENK transmission, but talks with German manufacturers over the past couple of years failed due to a federal arms embargo on Turkey. Germany is one of a number of European governments that have limited exports to Turkey over its involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Under the deal, the South Koran companies will supply the power pack and assist with integrating it into the Altay. A test phase will follow. If all goes well, BMC officials say, the Altays may be powered by Doosan and S&T Dynamics 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.