On Saturday, the French Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, Franck Riester, launched a strong attack on Turkey because of its actions in the South Caucasus and Africa.
In a press statement, Riester said that Turkey is playing a disgraceful role in order to harm France and the values that France holds. He threatened that Europe would impose sanctions on Turkey because of its unacceptable behaviour in the South Caucasus and North Africa.
Riester stressed the need for Turkey to stop arms smuggling in North Africa and to stop using the issue of immigration against Europe. He added, “We know very well that Ankara is playing on that chord and this is no longer acceptable.”
The issue of sanctions is no longer just a threat as European countries and NATO members led by Paris have already taken steps to apply sanctions to curtail Turkey’s “aggressive and unacceptable role.”
This is reinforced by what defence websites have published about problems encountered by Turkey in completing the manufacture of the Altay tank. Such problems are due to the suspension of parts and devices coming from Germany and France. As a result, Turkish officials have sought the collaboration of new companies to get out of this supply issue.
In 2019, the office of Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, listed the Altay tank as part of the Turkish army’s inventory for 2020.
A major shareholder of Turkey’s BMC Defence Company and prominent member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Ethem Sancak, had delivered a speech in which he said that the Altay tank, produced by BMC Defence Company, would be dispatched within 24 months. However, there are no indications on the ground that would back the Turkish businessman’s claims.
The Turkish officials are currently discussing ways to solve the crisis with a South Korean company to restore a program riddled with delays in producing the first next-generation domestic battle tank.
Defence News, a website specialising in military news, quoted a company procurement official as saying: “This program has faced significant delays due to failure to access important components such as the engine, transmission, and shield… I am not in a position to set a date for the start of its serial production. All I know is that we are trying hard to move forward.”
The 2021 investment program of the Presidential Office of Erdogan did not mention the Altay tank or its date for entering service.
According to a source familiar with the Altay program, BMC Defence Company held talks with South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem to solve problems related to foreign technology missing in the tank, which the Turks portray as a completely domestic-made tank.
“We hope that our conversations will ultimately solve the problems with the power package [the engine and transmission] that we will use in the serial production cycle,” the same source told Defence News. “We might talk about another two months of talks before we know which way to go,” the source added.
The source also said that BMC is in indirect talks, through Hyundai Rotem, with the two South Korean defence technology firms, namely Doosan company – the maker of the engine – and S&T Dynamics, which is producing the automatic transmission. Ideally, the Doosan-S&T power package will power the Altay tank if we can settle the disputes and licensing issues,” the source claimed.
Turkey had hoped to run the Altay tank with the German MTU engine and RENK transmission, but talks with German manufacturers over the past two years failed due to the federal arms embargo on Turkey linked to the latter’s participation in the Syrian civil war.
The Turkish company faced a similar problem related to the armour designed by Altay. It had hoped for the continued availability of the French armour solution after an initial batch of 40 units were sent, but the recent political tensions between the two countries over oil and gas exploration off Cyprus have jeopardized this cooperation.
The Altay program dates back to the mid-1990s, but the Turkish government did not award the multi-billion-dollar tank contract to BMC until November 2018.
BMC Defence Company won the contract over its domestic competitor Otokar, which had already produced four Altay prototypes under a previous government contract.