May 09 2018

Turkey’s new battle tank to face challenges rolling into ME - analysis

Turkey’s first new-generation battle tank, Altay, the work of a joint Turkish-Qatari venture, will boost defence business between the two regional allies, but is set to face political barriers in the Middle East, Burak Ege Bekdil wrote for the Defence News website. 

While Turkey’s procurement relations with other countries have been tumultuous, business with staunch Turkish ally Qatar has been steadily flourishing, the article said.

“The Altay contract has the potential to further deepen Turkish-Qatari defence business,” Bekdil quoted Ahmet Doğan, managing director at Turkey-based think tank Sigma, as saying. “There is a strong political push behind the Altay programme from both governments.”

BMC, a privately owned Turkish-Qatari armoured vehicle manufacturer, won the contract, which may be worth up to $30 billion, for the production of the Altay. BMC partner, Ethem Sancak sits in the executive board of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, Bekdil pointed out.

Altay’s potential engine has been at the centre of a row between Turkey and Germany. As the tank was originally planned to be built with a German-made engine. However, earlier this year, German opposition party Die Linke proposed a draft bill banning arms sales to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, citing possible human rights abuses.

BMC is looking to export the Altay tank to Qatar, the Gulf and Middle Eastern regions, and Asian markets, however, the Qatar crisis last June, in which Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and destabilising the Middle East, would mean losing the Egyptian and Gulf export markets, Bekdil said.

Turkey, who sees Qatar a strong political ally, built a military base in Qatar in 2016.