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By ARIE EGOZI

Until the severance of the ties between Israel and Turkey, a deal was on the table – a new tank for the Turkish army based on the Israeli developed Merkava main battle tank (MBT).

Preliminary talks began and the hopes were high, but then Turkey ceased to be a close ally of Israel and the hostilities between the two governments climbed to new peaks. Now Turkey is trying to do it alone.

According to Defense News, a Turkish armored vehicle manufacturer with close ties to the Ankara government announced it would join a future competition for the serial production of the Altay, the new generation main battle tank a rival company developed.

Ethem Sancak, chairman of BMC, told reporters his company would be a contender for the serial production contract, which industry experts and officials expect to be about 1,000 tanks, with an initial batch of 250.

Sancak said BMC would bid with partners, which he declined to name. But he hinted his partners may include foreign manufacturers that “would not object to export licenses and local production.”

Earlier this year, a privately owned Turkish engine maker, TUMOSAN, signed a €190 million (US $206.35 million) contract with the government to design an engine for the Altay.  

The Altay program has faced hurdles and delays as its engine is its most problematic development feature. Turkey’s months-long negotiations with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for joint development and production of an engine for the Altay failed last year.

The Altay was developed by Otokar, a rival of BMC. The Turkish government commissioned Otokar to build four Altay prototypes under a $500 million program.

After the prototype production stage has been finalized, the Under secretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) will formally invite bids for the serial production contract.

The Turkish army still wants a tank based on the Merkava Mk 4 because it gained operational experience , but the status of relations between the two countries rules that out.

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