Contributor: Defence IQ Press ,Posted: 09/01/2015
The Turkish armoured vehicle market offers one of the most compelling opportunities for foreign manufacturers to break new ground and seek end users for their technologies, from advanced armour to unmanned systems. The outlook for protection mobility in Turkey is buoyant and robust in an otherwise sluggish market for armoured vehicles globally.
But it is not just foreign firms that are benefitting from the country’s investment in armoured vehicles; Turkish industry is the real winner. Its indigenous industry is continuing to gain significant traction as it invests in infrastructure to manufacture and develop armoured vehicle technologies.
Turkey is aiming to achieve independence from imported equipment by 2023, so investments are flooding into modernisation programmes and as Turkey acquires new armoured fleets.
Ever since the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) delivered its 2007 – 2011 Strategic Plan, Turkey’s defence industry has enjoyed a rapid period of investment and development.
Turnover increased 59 percent from $1.72bn in 2006 to $2.73bn by 2010 while exports almost doubled to $634m during the same period, according to the latest SaSaD (Defence Industry Manufacturers Association) figures.
Turkey is now positioning itself to become a key global exporter of armoured vehicles over the next decade; backed by a robust economy and the second largest military in NATO, Ankara is primed to emerge as an important stakeholder in the armoured vehicle market.
In Defence IQ’s most recent global survey of armoured vehicle professionals, 30% of respondents identified Turkey as a key market with significant potential for growth over the next 10 years. Only India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were identified as a greater priority globally.
Interest in the Turkish market saw year-on-year growth of 5%, again highlighting the increasing opportunities in the country. Increased R&D investment in the early 2000s was one of the critical factors that bolstered Turkey’s defence industry and continues to drive innovation today.
The FNSS Savunma Sistemleri A.S. (FNSS Defense Systems Inc.) MILDESIGN competition is evidence of a confident market encouraging innovation and pushing the boundaries of engineering that may, one day sooner than you think, begin to inform government procurement decisions.
FNSS has been hosting the competition since 2011, the purpose of which is help find, inspire and promote designers and engineering talent in the defence industry. The ultimate aim of the competition is to “support the activities in the development of indigenous [armoured vehicle and defence related] products in Turkey”, according to an FNSS statement. The biennial event announced the 2015 winners at the International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF) held in Istanbul in May.
FNSS also unveiled the PARS 4x4 wheeled armoured vehicle at IDEF. The vehicle was produced to fulfil the wheeled requirements for Turkish Land Forces' Anti-Tank Vehicle programme. It displayed a working prototype of its Kaplan-20 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) at the same event. Indeed, this year has been one of repeated unveilings for the Turkish defence firm, seemingly revealing a new vehicle or variant at every major exhibition. Earlier in the year FNSS displayed the PARS 6x6 amphibious armoured vehicle, which has enhanced chemical warfare protection capabilities. With neighbouring Syria, the Turkish government has identified CBRN (Chemical Biological Radioactive Nuclear) reconnaissance vehicles as a priority given the Assad government’s stockpiling of chemical weapons and alleged willing to use them.
The Altay Main Battle Tank (MBT) being built by the country’s biggest armoured vehicle firm Otokar is a clear example of Turkey’s advanced indigenous capabilities. Forming part of the National Tank Production Project, the Altay is now in its final test phases and is expected to be in production by the end of 2015. The first of its kind, the Altay has been designed in-house by Otokar in-house to supply the Turkish armed forces with an indigenous armoured vehicle, but also with the ultimate aim to export to governments in the Middle East and Asia. Saudi Arabia is a potential future customer, with the two nations signing a defence industry agreement in 2013 that looked to increase cooperation on future programmes, which included collaboration on the development, production and procurement of defence equipment and services in the future.
“There is a great interest for Altay from various countries of the world. We have been approached by several countries asking for detailed information and requesting presentations and we believe that once Altay enters into service with the Turkish Army; there will soon be many armies fielding this MBT,” an Otokar spokesman said.
In March, Turkish engine maker Tümosan signed a €190m ($206m) contract with the country's procurement office, SSM, to design the engine and develop a transmission for the Altay. Underscoring the focus on indigenous capabilities, the company stated it would design the systems in collaboration with as may local partners as possible. "This [programme] will end Turkey's dependency on foreign engines for military vehicles," said Kurtulus Ogun, Tümosan's general manager. Turkey is planning to acquire an initial batch of 250 tanks, which could increase to 1,000 vehicles with follow-on orders.
A number of other armoured vehicle modernisation projects and acquisition programmes are currently ongoing in Turkey, including: the Tulpar heavy Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), which the military expects to accompany the new generation Atlay MBT in operations; the Arma, an Amphibious Wheeled Armoured Combat Vehicle in both 6x6 and 8x8 variants; the Special Purpose Tactical Wheeled Armoured Vehicle Programme; and the AV8, an 8x8 Armoured Personnel Carrier, with delivery expected in 2018.