The head of Turkey’s defense procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Ismail Demir announced earlier this month during a testimony in parliament that Pakistan’s military is interested in procuring the country’s first indigenously-designed third generation+ main battle tank, dubbed Altay, according to local media reports.
“Including Pakistan and the Gulf countries, we can say that countries that we have good relations with are showing a large interest in the tank. Representatives of some countries are being invited to the ongoing firing tests,” Demir said. Tests are currently underway in Turkey’s Sarıkamış district in the eastern province of Kars.
The Altay main battle tank (MBT) is named after Army General Fahrettin Altay, a Turkish cavalry commander from the Turkish War of Independence. In 2008, the Turkish Ministry of Defense awarded the Turkish military vehicles manufacturer Otokar a $500 million contract for the design, development, and production of four MBT prototypes.
Otokar entered into a system development deal with South Korean tank maker, Hyundai Rotem, whose K2 Black Panther tank project serves as the basis for the development of the Altay. Both tanks share the same base design including the chassis, although the Altay is purportedly slightly longer, equipped with heavier armor, and, in comparison to the K2 MBT also sports a modified turret with composite armor.
Both tanks are also armed with a 120-millimeter smoothbore gun, although the K2 Black Panther MBT is equipped with an automatic loader, whereas the gun on the Altay has to be loaded manually. Furthermore, the Altay MBT has a laser guided missile firing capability and is additionally armed with 7.62 millimeter coaxial machine gun and a pintle-mounted 12.7 millimeter machine gun up top.
The Altay can accommodate a crew of four and with its German-made 1,500 horsepower engine can reach a maximum speed of up to 70 kilometers per hour (43 mph). In October 2015, Turkish engine maker TUMOSAN signed an agreement with the Austrian firm, AVL List, for technical support in designing an indigenous engine for for future batches of the Altay MBT.
Five prototype tanks are currently undergoing system qualification and acceptance tests. “The tests, meanwhile, are extremely satisfying,” according to Ismail Demir. Defense News reports that Otokar has recently submitted a serial production proposal for an initial batch of 250 tanks “and integrated logistical support for the program.”
Serial production is slated to begin in 2017. Turkey plans to produce up to 1,000 tanks. Two other Turkish arms manufacturers will compete for the contract.
As of now, Pakistan has not officially expressed interest in the procurement of the Altay, although in January 2015, representatives of Pakistan’s defense industry said that they are considering procuring the Altay’s third generation thermal imagining sight for the Al-Khalid MBT, jointly developed by Pakistan and China during the 1990s. Islamabad is in the process of enlarging its force of main battle tanks.