At the second edition of the World Defense Show, the Saudi exhibition taking place in Riyadh, Otokar of Turkey and Leonardo of Italy joined their forces to propose the latest version of the Tulpar tracked infantry fighting vehicle fitted with the HITFACT II turret, giving birth to a light tank under 40 tons armed with a 120 mm gun
Exhibited in the outside stand of Otokar, the new solution was developed to answer two needs that are becoming increasing important for various armies. The first is for a direct fire support vehicle lighter than a tank to support infantry, the second is for a light tank for armoured units that operate in nations were infrastructures as well as in-country transport capabilities do not allow the use of main battle tanks.
At IDEF 2015 in Istanbul Otokar unveiled its Tulpar infantry fighting vehicle, aimed at the need of the Turkish Land Forces, the programme for replacing existing tracked combat vehicles being still on hold.
Being designed as a modular platform, the Tulpar was proposed along the years in different variants, its growth potential allowing solutions with a gross vehicle weight up to 45 tonnes, while its Armatronics digital backbone allows smooth integration of new mission systems. Depending n GVW, the Tulpar can be powered by engines ranging from 700 to 1,100 hp and can be fitted with rubber or steel tracks, depending on scenarios where it would be employed.
On its side Leonardo developed the HITFACT II turret as part of the Centauro II programme, that mobile gun 8×8 wheeled system being under contract with Italian and Brazilian armies. The turret can be equipped either with a 120 or a 105 mm main gun and is fitted with a coaxial machine gun. A remotely controlled weapon station can be installed over the roof, or in alternative a pintle-mounted machine gun can be adopted. It can be fitted with an autoloader hosting up to 12 rounds, its crew being alternately made of two military, when the autoloader is installed, or three personnel should the customer opt for manual loading. The protection level can be tailored to that of the platform.
In late 2022 the two companies started discussions for a possible cooperation on a light tank solution exploiting their respective systems, and these came to fruition at WDS 2024 where the Otokar-Leonardo system is exhibited.
According to both companies integration was very smooth, the turret diameter being standard while the top deck of the Tulpar is more than able to withstand the around 7.5 tonnes mass of the HITFACT II. As for vetronics, the Armatronics open architecture and the turret design also made it easy to integrate the two systems.
The new light tank version of the Tulpar was finalised shortly before the opening of the WDS exhibition, giving birth to a 34 tonnes plus light tank. As underlined by both companies, what is seen in Riyadh is a working solution, the turret being installed on a chassis which is not optimised for this role; should a potential customer materialise, it is clear that solutions will be adopted to carry add-on rounds inside the vehicle. Tests will start after the end of the exhibition.
The light tank seen at the Riyadh exhibition marked the first time the HITFACT II has been installed on a tracked vehicle. The demonstration solution proposed was made of a Tulpar powered by a 720 hp engine, fitted with steel tracks with rubber pads, while the HITFACT II was in the semi-autoloading version and was armed with the 120 mm smoothbore gun and equipped with the HITROLE Light RCWS.
Numerous delegations moved to the Otokar outside exhibition area to observe the new solution proposed by Otokar and Leonardo. The Tulpar light tank being unveiled in Saudi Arabia shows that the Middle East is clearly one of the potential marketing areas, the other one being Asia-Pacific, where operational scenarios are particularly favourable to this type of vehicle. EDR On-Line understood that both companies should act as prime, depending on which has stronger links with a potential customer nation.
Photos by P. Valpolini