Altay is a modern main battle tank that Turkish Armed Forces will use once its final tests are completed. It is expected to enter military service in 2023. Is Altay MBT really based on the South Korean K2 Black Panther? Let’s discuss this important question in detail.
The quick answer is that the Turkish model will indeed use the key technologies of the K2 Black Panther, accorded by an agreement signed with South Korea. What will be the main features of this tank, and how different it is from the South Korean model?
Altay main battle tank: key features
Altay’s main armament is the 120 mm 55 caliber smoothbore gun, redesigned under license based on the CN08 120 mm gun of the K2 Black Panther. The main gun uses a thermal sleeve construction. It is equipped with a stabilizer with an integrated static muzzle reference system (SMRS).
After reviewing initial plans, the armor package was redesigned for higher ballistic protection. It will include the so-called CBRN defense elements to protect it from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons.
The first tanks will be powered by 1,500 hp (1,110 kW) DV27K engines designed by Hyundai Doosan Infracore and SNT Dynamics in South Korea. Later batches are likely to be powered by a V12 12-cylinder V type 1,500 hp engine BATU developed and produced by the Turkish company BMC Power. Some sources say that BMC Power may also supply a more powerful 1,800 hp BATU model.
An isolated ammunition compartment, alongside fire and explosion suppression systems, will protect the tank crew. The tank will also be equipped with sensors for the detection of contaminated air from chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.
What are the main differences between Altay and K2 Black Panther?
Probably the most obvious difference is the weight of these vehicles. The K2 Black Panther in its basic configuration weighs 55 tons. Meanwhile, the Turkish model is approximately 10 tons heavier and weighs 65 tons.
Altay requires 4 crew members instead of 3 in the South Korean model. The reason is that the Turkish Military decided to use a manual loading system instead of an automatic loader. The aim here was to achieve better reliability, as the automated loaders are known to malfunction, which is obviously not a nice surprise in a real battlefield.
With manual loading, Altay is able to achieve a fire rate of up to 6 rounds per minute. Meanwhile, K2 has a fire rate of at least 10 rounds per minute, with a maximum number of 15 shots in 60 seconds.
Most of the added weight in Altay likely comes from additional layers of armor. Its exact thickness and configuration is kept secret by the developer and the government, but there are unofficial rumors stating that the Turkish model will have the thickest layer of armor among all existing tank models in the world.
Base models of these tanks use engines with the same power rating. Obviously, this means that the K2 Black Panther will have better dynamics. This difference should be eliminated if Altay is outfitted with the upgraded 1,800 hp BATU engine variant.
For now, the operational range of K2 is estimated at 430 km (274 miles), compared to 450 km (280 miles) in Altay, which is basically the same.
The new-generation Turkish MBT also uses mostly proprietary electronic systems, particularly those responsible for fire control, battlefield management, electronic warfare, and communications.
Altay MBT: a brief history of development
The development of Altay began in 2008. The first tanks are expected to be produced in 2023. While the Turkish Army will be its principal operator, other countries have also ordered or shown interest in these tanks, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
Turkey aimed to create an independent domestic infrastructure for the development, production, and maintenance of its own main battle tanks, and achieve the level necessary to meet the needs of the modern Turkish Armed Forces.
The government and representatives of local defense industry companies agreed that the creation of a new-generation main battle tank would be the best catalyst needed to achieve this objective.
The development of the “National Tank” started from the technology transfer and technical assistance by Hyundai Rotem, company that created and manufactures the famous K2 Black Panther.
Turkey has initially allocated $1 billion for the development of Altay MBT. The first 3D renderings of the new vehicle were demonstrated to the public on 7 April 2010. The first working prototype was ready in 2016. Once all tests are completed, the Republic of Turkey plans to manufacture at least 1,000 units of Altay tanks.
Altay main battle tank is undoubtedly a formidable machine. Even when it is based on the South Korean K2 Black Panther, most internal systems have been replaced with Turkish alternatives. It will also use a different main gun of the same caliber, and a Turkish-made engine. Most likely, the engine power rating will have to be upgraded to compensate for an increased weight of Altay.
Written by Giedrius Pakalka and Alius Noreika