Future of Turkey-made tank in doubt over foreign role

Plans for Turkey’s first domestically-produced tank are being threatened by uncertainty over the role of foreign firms in the project, Burak Bekdil reported for Defense News.

On Nov. 9, Turkey signed a multi-billion dollar contract to build the Altay tank with defence firm BMC, which has close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). But it is unclear where the firm will acquire key components, including engines, Bekdil said on Tuesday, citing sources.

“No one knows if, as originally planned, the Altay would be powered by a German-made engine (from MTU) and a German-made transmission mechanism,” one source said. “There are big questions marks about the armour and the active protection system.. And of course, if the Altay will feature German know-how.”

Western countries including Germany have shown reluctance to supply arms and weapons components to Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tightened his grip on the country and cracked down on dissent. The European Union has informally frozen membership talks with the country citing the deterioration of democratic standards.

A potential German blockade could mean “BMC will not have too many options and may have to go non-NATO, like Russia or Ukraine,” A London-based defence expert said, according to Bekdil.

“Such a move would be the second major defence contract that Turkey — a NATO ally — would sign with a non-NATO country, after the government’s decision to acquire and deploy the Russian-made S-400 air and anti-missile defence system,” the expert said.

Another analyst said Turkey’s neighbours will be keeping a keen eye on the project’s development.

“The future pace of the Altay program and potential technological and financial snags it may face will be watched closely by Greece, Syria, Iraq and, to a lesser degree, by Russia,” said Ahmet Doğan, vice president of the Ankara-based think tank Sigma.

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