Turkey launches competition to upgrade 200 tanks

Turkey launches competition to upgrade 200 tanks
Turkish M60T Sabra in Syria

The Turkish government has launched a competition to upgrade a batch of 200 main battle tanks that are in the army’s inventory, the contract is estimated to cost $500 million.

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On January 23, a handful of Turkish defense companies had already placed their bids: Aselsan, Roketsan, BMC, Otokar and FNSS. It is worth mentioning that Aselsan and Roketsan are state-owned companies, while BMC, Otokar and FNSS are privately owned.

Although the companies that took part in the bidding process are local, the contract may involve foreign suppliers as the program is mainly aimed at improving armor and protection from anti-tank weapons, which involves foreign technology.

According to a Turkish procurement official familiar with the new program, the upgrade program would be focused on armor improvements and installing “active protection systems” on the tanks.

The upgrade will involve Turkey’s M60A3, M60T Sabra, and Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks, and will be administered by Turkey’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM). All three above-mentioned tanks have taken part in Turkey’s recent incursion into Syria known as Operation Euphrates Shield.

Particularly, the Israeli-upgraded M60T Sabra tanks and Leopard 2A4s took part in the most intense phase of the operation which started in November, as the Turkish Army and fighters from Syrian rebel groups attempted to storm the Syrian northern town of Al-Bab.

The repetitive failed attempts to storm the town led to the destruction of several M60T Sabra and Leopard 2A4 tanks, mostly to ISIS anti-tank missiles and SVBIEDs. At least two Leopard 2A4s were taken over by ISIS, after which Turkish sources claimed that the tanks were targeted by the Turkish Air Force to prohibit ISIS from utilizing them.

A batch of 170 US-made M60A1 tanks were upgraded to M60T Sabra in the mid-2000s by the Israel Military Industries. The official contract price for the deal was $688 million, although the actual figure went beyond that. It is unclear how much more upgrade can the M60Ts take before maxing out.

Turkey received 354 units of German Leopard 2A4s in the mid-2000s. The 2A4 was manufactured in eight batches between 1985 and 1992. These tanks can be considered to be the backbone of the Turkish armor inventory.

An upgrade for 200 tanks indicates that Turkey’s indigenous Altay tank program, which was recently hit by engine supplier issues due to the Austrian arms embargo, has been further delayed.

The bidding for the upgrade is expected to concluded this year.