Turkey delays MBT decision by four months
LALE SARIIBRAHIMOGLU JDW Correspondent
Turkey has postponed the selection of a winner in its $7 billion main battle tank (MBT) project from 14 July to mid-November for political and technical reasons, according to local industry sources.
Some sources believe Turkey may announce a shortlist that could delay the final selection to early next year.
A Defence Industries Undersecretariat (SSM) source denies that budgetary pressure is behind the delay, since a $2.5 billion allocation is already earmarked for the first batch of 250 MBTs. Ankara has already postponed to late June the selection for its $4 billion attack helicopter project.
The second stage of the trials of the four competing MBT designs the Giat Industries Leclerc (France); Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Leopard 2A6 (Germany); Ukrspetsexport T-84 (Ukraine); and General Dynamics Land Systems M1A2 (USA) is under way.
The SSM has written to the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLFC) requesting a four-month postponement to allow time to evaluate the results of the trials, said one source. "Since the tanks being tested are not the configurations that Turkey is looking for, we need time to make an in-depth assessment of the results of the trials to see whether the tanks will meet the Turkish requirement."
Other factors may have contributed to the delay, including public criticism in Turkey over the rationale of producing 1,000 MBTs given the country's present economic difficulties. Under the terms of an agreement signed between Turkey and the International Monetary Fund, Ankara must adhere to an austere economic programme covering the three-year period to 2002.
Sources indicated that the TLFC favours the Leopard 2A6. However, concerns about Turkey's human rights record have divided Germany's Green-Socialist coalition government over the question of granting an export licence for the Leopard 2. As such, the Turkish foreign ministry has advised the SSM to postpone a final selection. German industry sources indicate that a delay would improve the chances of securing export approval.
In a related development, the TLFC has not decided on the modernisation strategy for its M60A1 MBTs. Talks are under way with Israel Military Industries (IMI) for the modernisation of 170 M60A1MBTs by 2003 to meet an urgent operational requirement (Jane's Defence Weekly 29 March).
The TLFC supports IMI as a sole source instead of opening the project to tender. The SSM Executive Board chaired by Prime Minister Bulent Eзevit is expected to make a decision this month to begin formal negotiation with IMI.
"Because Turkey does not have much time ... [before] 2003, negotiations for local content is not expected. TLFC will possibly receive the kits from IMI and will assemble them in Turkey", said one local industry source.
Turkey's Aselsan is expected later this month to complete the prototype of a modernised Leopard 1 MBT for the TLFC.
©Jane's Information Group 2000
Posted: 3 May 2000
Source: Jane's Defence Weekly
Also Online: Jane's Defence Weekly