At a ceremony held in Ankara on November 9, the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) and BMC signed a contract that effectively launched the serial production of the ALTAY tank. The project not only covers the tank’s serial production, but also the continuous development of ALTAY to counter evolving threats and the inclusion of unmanned aspects, ensuring the tank is kept combat-ready for the future.
The contract envisages the SSB at the helm of the ALTAY Tank Serial Production project and BMC as the prime contractor. Assuming a central role, the SSB will ensure coordination between the Ministry of National Defence (MND), Turkish General Staff and Land Forces Command, while BMC will work with a host of other subcontractors and stakeholders that include ASELSAN, MKEK, ROKETSAN and HAVELSAN. The subcontractors will have the following distribution of tasks:
- ASELSAN: Electronic systems of the tank, including its fire control and active protection systems.
- MKEK: Main Weapon
- ROKETSAN: Armour System
- HAVELSAN: Simulators for the tank and its systems
The main activities of the project are listed as follows:
- Establishment of a serial production line
- Production of 250 ALTAY tanks
- Production of a Power Pack Platform, for testing the indigenously developed power pack
- Development and production of an ALTAY tank equipped with an unmanned turret
- Establishment of a Tank Systems Technology Centre, charged with adapting ALTAY to any new requirements and technologies that may emerge during project activities
The project contract also encompasses the tank’s life cycle logistic support.
ALTAY is to be rolled out in two configurations – T1 and T2 (Figure 1). The T1 version will feature the AKKOR active protection system as well as additional armour plates. The delivery of 40 units in this configuration will be followed by the delivery of 210 T2 versions. The T2 version will possess the following capabilities:
- Advanced Armour System
- Isolated Hull-Ammunition Configuration
- Laser-Guided Tank Gun Firing Capability
- Crew Training Mode
- Mobile Camouflage Net – Signature Management
The T3 version will have an unmanned turret. Once the serial production line is established, the first T1 tank will emerge in the 18th month of the project calendar (Figure 2), and following tests, the first T1 tank will be delivered in the 24th month, while the first T2 tank will be ready for delivery in the 49th month.
Target: Becoming the World’s Best
Delivering a speech at the ceremony, Ethem Sancak, Chairman of the Board of BMC, described the process leading up to the signing of the contract: “Nearly 20 months have passed since the initial tender and project assessment phase. The SSB’s highly meticulous approach had our colleagues shedding plenty of sweat. We passed a serious trial together with our stakeholders, going through various milestones along the way. One such development in particular I would like to share here. When we first applied to take part in this project, we established a partnership with an international company with vast international experience and renown, as we assumed our own strength would not be sufficient [for the project]. But as time moved on, we saw that the SSB and the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) wanted a tank that was 100 percent indigenous. Since this was their goal, we had to end our partnership, and the said company will from now on only play a consultancy role.”
Commenting on the project, Sancak said, “We are aware of how important this mission is … We are dedicated, and will absolutely prevail in this task”, adding that their objective was to produce the best tank in the world.
An Important Milestone
Speaking at the ceremony, Prof. Dr. Demir dwelled upon the significance of the programme: “In the overall development of the defence sector in Turkey, ALTAY can be counted among the leading milestone projects. The prototype development process moved forward thanks to intense efforts. Prime contractor Otokar, as well as ASELSAN, MKEK and certain foreign subcontractors, worked together with the other stakeholder companies to come up with a prototype, and that prototype was put through lengthy tests. The tank’s endurance, firing accuracy and performance with various ammunitions were all comprehensively tested under various climatic conditions and at different testing centres … I have personally witnessed how even the smallest deviations and needs for correction were followed closely with great sensitivity, ensuring the creation of a prototype through a near perfect approach. However, considering the continuous advance of technology, certain aspects of the tank will have to be revisited and reconsidered [in the long run].”
Prof. Dr. Demir also spoke about the project’s bidding process: “The public had long been eagerly waiting the serial production phase [of the project]. We held a transparent tender, at the end of which BMC proved the winner with a highly competitive offer.”
An Inalienable Goal
In his speech, Prof. Dr. Demir also gave important messages about their objective of independence, as well as collaboration with foreign companies: “Turkey and the SSB are determined to do whatever it takes when it comes to engines. We have, to date, launched a plethora of projects for many different systems, including armoured vehicles, UAVs, cruise missiles and aircraft. You will never get anywhere if you don’t take that initial step … Indeed, [having an engine] is not something that is going happen between today to tomorrow, but all of the contractors that have been engaged in these engine projects are working with real determination, and so are we. Turkey must rid itself of any items that create a form of dependence. This includes [dependency in] engines, transmissions, electronic transmissions, fire control systems, electronic circuits, night-vision systems, various cameras, and all of their subsystems … and whatever else comes to mind. We have to overcome all obstacles that prevent Turkey from acting and taking decisions independently in this regard. Of course, we’ll never close the door on foreign partnerships, support and collaborations. We are indeed always ready to cooperate with whoever harbours good intentions and concurs with our ultimate goals … But our imperative precondition is having things done indigenously in Turkey … We will never permit any restriction, any obstructions to technology, or any attitude that says ‘Turkey cannot have this or that.’ Even if it takes us some time to get there, we will never give up on our ultimate goals.”
Prof. Dr. Demir also mentioned the works aimed at developing an unmanned turret for ALTAY, while also underlining the SSB’s expectations from BMC. “As you may already know, [BMC is] not just producing tanks, but also armoured vehicles. For some of their medium-class armoured vehicles, they have various ongoing works aimed at giving them remote-control capabilities or making them unmanned. We are waiting [to see the results of] these works. These vehicles will be completed long before the tanks, and we will have the chance to see them in their respective fields.”
Following the speeches, the ceremony booklet was signed Prof. Dr. Demir, the President of Defence Industries; Air Major General Reha Ufuk Er, Chief of Plans and Policy Division of the Turkish General Staff; Mustafa Şeker, Vice President of Defence Industries; Brigadier General Mehmet Özaydın, Chief of Defence Planning and Project Management at Land Forces Command; Ethem Sancak, Chairman of the Board of BMC; Talip Öztürk, Member of the Board at BMC; Prof. Dr. Haluk Görgün, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of ASELSAN; Selçuk Yaşar, President and CEO of ROKETSAN; and Mehmet Ünal, Deputy General Manager of MKEK.