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Turkey gets Altay MBT rolling by selecting BMC for serial production

On 26 April 2018, Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) announced (via Twitter) that it has awarded the serial production contract for the first 250 Altay main battle tanks (MBT) to the Turkish auto-manufacturer BMC Otomotiv ve Savunma Sanayi A.Ş..

In addition to mass producing the Altay MBT, BMC will also take charge of developing the Altay’s engine, officially confirming an earlier announcement in February by the company of winning the engine bid.

The SSM had intended to get the Altay’s serial production started in 2017, but delays in selecting the right vendor to take responsibility for the manufacturing kept the program from taking-off. Prior to this, Otokar was responsible for designing and developing the Altay MBT.

In terms of the engine project, BMC will incorporate it as part of a complete engine range from 400 hp to 1,500 hp, with the latter slated for use on the Altay. Under the SSM’s requirements, BMC is responsible for domestically sourcing the engines critical components, such as turbocharger, alternator and others.

The SSM selected BMC to develop the engine following a failed attempt through Tümosan. Originally, the rival Turkish auto-manufacturer was to develop a powerplant with technical support from the Austrian-based company AVL List GmbH. However, Ankara cancelled its contract with Tümosan after the company was unable to properly navigate through Vienna’s regulatory environment, which sought to impose a set of conditions on AVL List GmbH’s collaboration with Tümosan.

Designed as a NATO-standard MBT, the Altay weighs 65 tons and is equipped with a 120 mm smoothbore main gun along with two secondary weapons, i.e. a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun and a remote-controlled weapon station. It is currently powered by a 1,500 hp diesel engine from MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH.

As BMC proceeds with serial production (i.e. adding economies-of-scale to the Altay MBT program) and its engine development program, the SSM will likely intensify its efforts to market the Altay to prospective foreign users. In 2016, the SSM Dr. İsmail Demir told the Turkish Parliament that numerous countries were interested in the Altay including, among others, “…Pakistan and the Gulf countries”.

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