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19 Sep 05. BURAK EGE BEKDIL, ANKARA, of Defense News reported that, after years of zigzagging between two competing ideas, procurement authorities here have decided Turkey should build its own third-generation main battle tanks, dropping the option of an off-the-shelf purchase from a foreign supplier. A consortium of three private armored vehicle makers — commissioned by the government to draft a feasibility report on the best way to advance the multibillion-dollar tank program — suggests that local industry could develop and manufacture a “national-design” model, with assistance from foreign manufacturers. “What comes out of the feasibility study is that a national-design tank can be developed and manufactured locally, including the systems integration work, with some technological support from abroad in certain areas,” said Murad Bayar, Turkey’s chief procurement official.

The report — drafted by Otokar, Istanbul; BMC, Manisa; and FNSS, here —was submitted to the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, or Savunma Sanayi Mustesarligi (SSM), in April. Results have not been made public, but Bayar said his office would accept the recommendations, with a final decision due in the last quarter of this year.

Another SSM official said Sept. 12 the report provides enough evidence for the government to pursue an indigenous model to meet the Army’s third-generation tank needs. “We are now certain that the most critical part of the program, the systems integration, can be done locally.”

The procurement of an eventual 1,000 tanks is Turkey’s largest single contract, worth more than $10 billion. Originally launched in the mid-1990s, the program was indefinitely postponed in 2001 after a national financial crisis.

In 2002, military and procurement authorities resumed the program and began to weigh two options — off-the-shelf purchase and local production with foreign technology support — but failed to make a choice.

Last year, the SSM commissioned the Otokar-BMC-FNSS team to produce the feasibility report. With that report in hand, the SSM held a series of meetings with the Turkish General Staff between May and July. “We’ll finalize the modality for the tank program in the months ahead,” Bayar said.

A defense analyst here said the final decision will be more strategic than commercial.

“It will mostly be a decision of the military command … with procurement deliberations certainly included,” the analyst said. “One thing is certain, though: Both the SSM and the military want to test the limits of going for the national model in order to gain capabilities to meet future needs.”

For the original contest, four international contenders had teamed with local subcontractors: U.S. firm General Dynamics Land Systems and BMC; Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Otokar; France’s GIAT and Roketsan; and a team of Ukrspetsexport, Kiev, and Asmas. Shelving that program, Turkey in 2002 awarded Israel Military Industries a $688 million contract to upgrade 170 M60 1A tanks that have been in the Turkish inventory for more than 30 years.

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