Turkey to build new battle tank with South Korean engine

Two South Korean firms will possibly supply Turkey’s new battle tank Altay with engines and transmissions, defence analyst Caleb Larson wrote for The National Interest on Tuesday. 

Turkey is building a new domestic battle tank, looking to replace its aging U.S.-made tanks, Larson said. Turkish forces lost 12 tanks to anti-tank missiles in their incursion into northern Syria in 2016.

A number of German-made Leopard 2 tanks in the Turkish inventory were also taken out by missiles, mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Syria, bolstering Turkey’s domestic tank ambitions.

The Altay main battle tank is “rather unremarkable” in comparison to other tanks of its league, but its main issue is with its engine and transmission, the analyst said.

Turkey has struggled to fabricate a motor block, and its hopes of utilising a German-made motor was cut short when Berlin imposed an arms embargo on the country over its military operations into Syria.

Components of the engine and transmissions from South Korea’s K2 main battle tank may possibly be integrated in the new designs of the Altay, but even these components have a German origin, Larson said.

To allow Turkey to access the German-origin components, South Korea would have to “either remove or modify the German components in their power packs, to not run afoul of Berlin’s weapons embargo”, he said.

The Turkish government has made it a focus to develop the country’s defence industry and reduce reliance on foreign weapons. The country maintains the Altay is a fully domestic tank, however, the project better resembles the “Frankenstein’s monster” as a patchwork of components from Turkey, South Korea and Germany, the analyst said.