30 April 2019
By Paolo Valpolini
In April 2018 the Turkish Defense Industry Presidency (SSB) announced that the production contract for the new Altay main battle tank was to be assigned to BMC, however the actual contract was signed only in November 2018, and six months later the prototype of the production tank is starring at IDEF on board a new tank transporter.
The contract calls for the production of 250 MBTs, which however will not be all at the same standard. The one seen at the Istanbul exhibition is in the so-called T1configuration, which has some improvements compared to the development prototypes. The main differences are quite visible as they come in the form of a new explosive reactive armour, developed by Roketsan, installed in the front half of the hull side, the rear one being fitted with a BMC-developed cage armour, said to defeat 75% of RPG-like projectiles.
Both the ERA and the cage have the same width. The other main add-on is also aimed at increasing protection: that is the Akkor active defence system, developed by Aselsan, which radar antennas are installed at the corners of the turret, while the two twin launchers are installed right and left of the remotely controlled weapon station fitted on the turret roof, in order to ensure 360° coverage. Laser warning receivers have been integrated within the active protection system increasing its efficiency. BMC will provide the Turkish land Forces with 40 tanks at the T1 standard, all powered by an MTU 1,500 hp engine. These will be produced at Sakarya. In fact the T1 tanks will be 41, a first tank defined as “promotion” to be completed in the 18th month after the signature of the contract, which means May 2020. Six months later the first production Altay T1 should be delivered, the production of all 40 to be completed by February 2022.
The remaining 210 tanks will be produced at the T2 standard, the facility where they will be built having not yet been decided. Two options are being considered, one being a military depot currently busy with tank maintenance, the second being a civilian facility; BMC is discussing both options and should soon decide where to invest for creating a tank manufacturing facility.
The T2 configuration will feature improved armour, both base passive armour as well as ERA, a separated hull ammunition rack, and an escape hatch in the floor. It will also be capable of firing a laser guided ammunition, the Tanok, unveiled by Roketsan at IDEF. But the main difference will be in the powerpack: currently BMC Power is developing a family of four engines, two for wheeled vehicles, the prototype of a 6 cylinders in line providing 600 hp being displayed at IDEF, a lower power engine being also under development. For tracked vehicles two powerpacks, that is engine plus transmission plus cooling system, are being developed; that aimed at MBTs is based on a 12-V engine providing 1,500 hp, an 8-V version with a 1,000 hp output being dedicated to IFVs. The timeline calls for the delivery of the first Altay T2 in December 2022, the last of the 250 Altay ordered to be handed over in February 2026.
However the target number for the Turkish Land Forces must be higher than the 250 tanks on order, as some of the service MBTs are ageing, despite constant upgrading. To this end BMC will leverage its significant remote control capabilities to develop a remotely controlled turret armed with the same 120 mm gun, fitted with an automatic ammunition loader.
Photos by Paolo Valpolini