Turkish defense forces were heavily relying on other NATO countries when it comes to the state of the art military equipment for a very long time and they decided to try and develop the first main battle tank of their own construction. The reasons for this are obvious. As the batch of 1000 new tanks is needed to complete their armor forces, the value of the deal is enormous and the Turks wanted to invest that money in their own production, although they had offers from their NATO allies to buy some of the already proven MBTs for that money.
The entire process started back in the mid 1990’s and it took a while until the deal was officially signed. The rights to develop new Altay MBT got Otokar Company in March 2007 and the first two prototypes were put to the tests in 2012. It is expected that it will start entering service in 2015, two years before the predicted deadline. It will be produced in four batches of 250 tanks and each batch will be upgraded compared to the previous one. It is also offered for export and several countries have already declared their interest in it.
The systems it incorporates are very advanced and it is expected that Altay MBT will be one of the best tanks in the world. The close cooperation with Rheinmetall and South Korean constructors who were working on their K2 MBT guarantees that only the best solutions will be applied to Altay.
The first impression the Altay makes is that it was developed under strong influence of the Leopard 2A4 and K2 MBT. It has a very similar turret shape to those tanks and they also share the same 120 mm smoothbore gun. It is clearly a concept of heavy MBT that is applied in most NATO armies but its design gives some significant advantages compared to its competitors.
First of all, it will have all the state of the art navigation, fire control and communication systems integrated. That leaves an option for further modifications and improvements that the other, older main battle tanks of the NATO Pact are lacking, as they have already reached their full potential.
Its main armament is pretty standard as it consists of a 120 mm gun able to fire all standard NATO ammunition and a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. The armor protection should be very high as the composite materials were used from the very beginning. Also, the designers had in mind that the evasive maneuvers will be needed on the battlefield and the entire suspension was constructed in a manner that will allow rapid speed changes and short turns.
Finally, the propulsion system will be produced in two main variants. The first two batches will have a 1500hp engines while the final two batches will be equipped with the stronger 1800hp engines. The option of the electric engine is also considered as the Turkish industry has some significant experience in making electric engines and that would significantly reduce the IR reflection of the tank.
It is certain that once operational the Altay will be an impressive force on the battlefield but it still has to prove itself on the battlefield. It is a pioneer project for the Turkish industry but since it is based on the experience of many other countries, it sure looks very promising.