The soap opera of the motorization of the Turkish Altay battle tank continues

In January last year, we analyzed the tortuous path taken by the Turkish Defense Ministry to equip its Altai tank with a national power plant and the difficulties encountered in realizing industrial agreements. On the way there were technologists, Germans, Australians and Japanese who are now betting on South Koreans and Italians.

Now statements by Turkish Defense Industry President (Savunma Sanayii Başkanlığı, or SSB, the Turkish civil authority that manages the national industrial complex and supply chain) Ismail Demir, are creating more uncertainty, as it was stated in an interview last March 3 that she was dealing with South Korea negotiate the purchase of engines for the Altai. According to Demir, the problem of the car engine will soon be resolved and production of the engine at the national level will continue at the same time.

Other Turkish media cite anonymity towards a director of the defense company BMC, which is responsible for the serial production of the Altai, and confirm the agreements with the South Korean companies Doosan and S & T Dinamics. It would also be the DV27K engine from the Korean Doosan Infracore, the same twelve-cylinder four-stroke engine producing 1,500 horsepower. the force that powers the South Korean Black Panther tank.

Demir’s statements may indicate that, as we shall see, only an initial number of Altai cars will be fitted while the national Baku design is implemented. It is not for nothing that the Altai is the result of cooperation between Turkish and South Korean industries.

A short story

When the Turkish Defense Ministry started developing a national main battle tank in 2007, it decided to include all sorts of systems from the region. The Turkish defense industry has gained experience in carrying out a project of this size, but various vicissitudes, some of which are politically motivated, make it difficult to carry out.

One of the systems that Turkey wanted to nationalize for the Altai is the powertrain, which includes not only the engine but also the transmission and other related systems such as cooling or exhaust. In January the newspapers announced that the first prototype of the Altay engine, baptized as BATU, would be ready this year.

In March 2007, an agreement was signed with the Otokar company for the design, development and manufacture of four prototypes of the Altai worth 500 million euros, which were delivered to the Turkish army for evaluation in November 2016. The Altay was originally supposed to equip German engines and transmissions, as Otokar signed a contract with MTU and Renk in 2010 for the delivery of the power package (engine and transmission set). In fact, the four prototypes that Otokar originally built with the support of the South Korean Hyundai Rotem were equipped with 1,500 hp MTU 883 Ka 501 engines. and Renk HSWL 295TM gearboxes.

At the same time, the nationalization of the drive system was investigated with a first attempt, which took place in early 2014 with the Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), which ultimately failed. Then the Executive Committee of the Turkish Defense Industry (SSIK von Savunma Sanayii Icra Komitesi) and the Undersecretary of State for Industry and Defense (Savunma Sanayii Mustesarligi or SSM) commissioned the Turkish company Turk Motor Sanayi ve Ticaret (TUMOSAN) with the construction of the motor and the gearbox for the Altai. However, TUMOSAN from the Albayrak Grubu conglomerate specializes in turbodiesel tractors and agricultural engines, but only with four cylinders for tractors and boats.

In September 2016, the Turkish Undersecretariat of State for Industry and Defense received the final offer from the manufacturer Otokar to start large-scale production of the Altai tank, including the first 250 tanks with a total target of 1000.

The problems arose in 2017 when the Undersecretary for Industry and Defense terminated the contract with TUMOSAN after being unable to guarantee technological independence after terminating the contract signed in 2014 with the Austrian company AVL. In January of this year, TUMOSAN had to terminate the contract it had signed with AVL, as the Turkish government feared that Australian political and legal factors would endanger the development of this engine and the possibilities of exporting it to third countries with this engine. .

In March of the same year, after the failed coup and the subsequent process of cleansing and restricting freedoms and the demands of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to expand its powers, this meant that Germany, among other things, received a large number of licenses for the export of military equipment to Turkey. Finally, in 2018, the federal government decided to block the delivery of components for the main battle tank due to Turkey’s involvement in the civil war in Syria, thereby increasing its commitment to nationalizing the driving force.

In May 2018, the Altay program took a big turn when the Department of Defense decided to outsource the final design and large-scale manufacturing to BMC Group instead of Otokar as planned. BMC had built light, but not chain-based armaments and would have prevailed over Otokar or FNSS, as the president of the Koc group, to which Otokar belongs, had criticized Turkish President Erdogan.

In June, BMC signed a contract with SSM to develop a 1,500 hp diesel engine. and other systems for the Altai car and manufacturing program were finally signed in November, with the delivery of 40 international engine-equipped cars under consideration while national engine development is completed. According to the contract, these 40 cars should have been delivered in 18 months, a milestone that was not reached. Those first 40 cars are said to be fitted with the Doosan Infracore engine while they wait for the national engine.

The development program for the drive train consisting of the engine and transmission was called BAKU. It comprises a twelve-cylinder V-turbo diesel engine with 1,500 hp and 4,600 Nm torque, which is connected to an automatic transmission. To this end, BMC signed an agreement with the Italian manufacturer Fiat Avio. The development of the integrated water cooling, air filter and exhaust system is included. (Jos M Navarro Garca)

Photo: The Altai Main Battle Tank (Savunma Sanayii Başkanlığı)

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