ANKARA—The prototype of the Altay, an indigenous Turkish new-generation tank in the making, has successfully passed all acceptance tests, said its builder, Otokar.
"Altay ... has now completed the tough qualification testing stage, including mobility and endurance testing on rough terrain and climatic conditions, firing tests with various scenarios and survivability testing," the company said.
Serdar Gorguc, Otokar's general manager, said: "The acceptance tests ... for [the] Altay are finalized. After ... meeting the ultimate requirements under extreme conditions successfully, we are confident that [the] Altay will be one of the best modern main battle tanks on the field very soon."
Gorguc also hinted at export potential for the Altay: "In addition to producing 250 units of [the] Altay, Otokar made an annual capacity plan taking into consideration the export potential, mine clearance, and various complementary vehicle requirements such as rescue and fortification tank. In this way, it aims to have a flexible production program that can meet all demands of [Turkey] or other friendly allied countries."
The government's procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), will now decide whether it will award the serial production contract, worth billions of dollars, to Otokar or launch a competition.
Procurement officials say all options are open. "Competition is not an unlikely option," said one senior official familiar with the Altay program. "We might also consider bringing together more than one player and go for a consortium-like solution."
Armored-vehicles specialist Otokar, Turkey's biggest privately-owned defense company, signed in 2008 a $500 million contract with SSM for the development and production of four prototypes of the Altay.
Under the various clauses of the development contract, Otokar, without competition, was to make an offer for the serial production contract. If Otokar's offer was to be found satisfactory there would be no competition. If, however, the procurement bureaucracy was not content with the offer, then it had all the legal rights to launch competition for serial production of the Altay.
In January 2016, Otokar officially submitted its bid for serial production of a first batch of 250 Altay tanks and integrated logistical support for the program. And in August 2016 it revised its bid and submitted its best and final offer (BAFO) to SSM. Sources said at the time Otokar's original bid was "surprisingly high."
SSM's looming decision on whether to go with Otokar or open competition will shape the Altay and its future sales, both to the Turkish army and potentially to foreign "friendly and allied" armies.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based political analyst and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.