Turkey’s BMC has reached an agreement with South Korea for the provision of engines for Altay tanks built by the former.
A senior official with BMC told Defense News that the company signed deals with Doosan and S&T Dynamics to supply the engine and transmission mechanism for the Altay. Another senior defense procurement official in Ankara confirmed “there was a breakthrough agreement” between BMC and South Korean defense companies.
Turkey wants to sell some of these tanks to Indonesia and Qatar.
Altay program suffered a setback due to its political differences with Germany, where the engines were originally meant to come from. The Turks had earlier hoped to power the Altay with the German MTU engine and RENK transmission. Talks with German manufacturers over the past couple of years failed due to a federal arms embargo on Turkey, imposed for its involvement in the Syrian Civil War.
In order to bypass German export license restrictions, the South Korean companies will “de-Germanize” some German components in the power pack, sources familiar with the Altay program have said.
Under the latest deals, the South Koran companies will supply power packs consisting of a locally developed engine and a transmission system, and then assist with its integration into the Altay. A test phase will follow, and if all goes well, the Altays may be powered by Doosan and S&T Dynamics within 18 months, the BMC official said. BMC expects to ink more definitive versions of the two deals within a couple of months.
In addition to issues with Germany, there was reportedly a problem with import of French armor for the tank following clashes with France over its hydrocarbons exploration in the Mediterranean Sea last year. Paris had weighed in on the side of Greece.
In 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office included the Altay tank as part of the military’s 2020 inventory in a government document. But the presidential office’s 2021 investment program did not mention the Altay, let alone the tank entering service.
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 also plans to eventually produce 1,000 Altays, to be followed by an unmanned version.
In an October 2019 speech, Ethem Sancak — a senior shareholder in BMC, which makes the Altay — said the tank would be fielded within 24 months. Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) had signed a deal in 2018 with BMC for design, development, prototype production, testing and qualification of the ALTAY Main Battle Tank Power Group consisting of diesel engine with 1,500 horsepower and cross drive transmission. The current status of this project is not known.