Turkey’s major indigenous defence programs such as the Altay tank and the ATAK combat helicopter could face significant delays over denial of engine technology by European firms.
While the Altay tank project is certain to miss a production deadline set for this year as the engine manufacturer, MTU of Germany has remained non-committal on supply after providing just 4 engines.
“If the application for the power pack does not result, the 18-month period for the production cannot start. We had publicly announced 18 months (for start of production). We are waiting for a final application. This application did not currently encounter a positive or negative response; it’s pending,” Turkey’s Defense Industries Directorate(SSM) Chief İsmail Demir told Tukish reporters on January 6.
In the case of the T129 ATAK Helicopter, of which Pakistan has ordered 30 in 2018 for $1.5 billion, the deadline for delivery has been extended by one year as Turkey is preparing an indigenous substitute engine for LHTEC T800-4A made by Light Helicopter Turbine Engine Company (LHTEC); a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Honeywell. The United States is said to be holding up export permits for the LHTEC T800-4A citing the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regulatory regime.
The Altay tank, Turkey’s most ambitious land vehicle project to date, is being manufactured by a Turkish-Qatari Joint venture, BMC which has an initial order for 250 tanks. The delay in receiving MTU engines and transmission from RENK was due to objections of technology transfer from Germany where both companies are based.
Turkey has engine substitutes for both Altay tank and ATAK helicopters. In the case of the later it is the TS1400 turboshaft engine whose development began in February 2017 and serial production planned fr 2024. This means a project delay of over 4 years. Can Pakistan wait that long?
The SSM has signed a deal in 2018 with BMC for design, development, prototype production, testing and qualification of the ALTAY Main Battle Tank Power Group consisting of diesel engine with 1,500 horsepower and cross drive transmission. The current status of the project is not known.
Turkey’s defence cooperation projects with European firms are rapidly falling apart ever since it picked the Russian S-400 air defence system over the US-made Patriots. Just last week, France has indicated reluctance to move ahead on the Eurosam Missile Defence System project objecting to Turkey’s operations in Syria.