Turkey fears the US blocks a military deal, further delaying production of tanks

Turkey made a deal with South Korea to move forward with its program to build new tanks. But the plan may change, and Turkey reportedly fears the U.S. would pressure South Korea to avoid transferring military technology.

Altay tanks
Design of Altay tanks | © BMC

On October 22 Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish minister of Foreign Affairs met Kang Eun-ho, the Minister responsible for the Defense Procurement Program, during a visit in South Korea on October 22.

The two country representatives signed a declaration of intent for South Korea to sell and supply engines for the Turkish ALTAY tanks.

The agreement proved to be a major step for Turkey to be able to produce its own military vehicles.

The ALTAY Main Battle Tank Production Program was initiated in 2018 in order to produce 250 tanks for the Turkish Armed Forces. A second phase involved the production on another 750 tanks in an advanced version, then followed by an unmanned version.

The first 250 tanks were originally supposed to be operational at the end of 2020, but the ALTAY program has been facing delays because Western countries were reluctant to provide critical technology to Turkey.

So the documents signed between the two governments, after Turkish and Korean companies signed a deal earlier in March, reinvigorated the program as Turkey hoped the tanks could be produced within the next 18 months.

U.S. lawmakers urged not to sell fighter aircraft to Turkey

South Korea is the 2nd trade partner of Turkey in Asia-Pacific and the only country in East-Asia having a free trade agreement with Ankara.

But the deal may change.

Defense News reports the agreement received some alterations. Instead of a joint production on Turkish soil, engines would be provided “off-the-shelves” directly from Asia.

Moreover, Turkey is reportedly worried that the United States pressure South Korea against providing military technology to Turkey.

In 2019, the United States removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet acquisition program as Ankara bought a Russian air-defense missile system.

A few weeks ago, after President Tayyip Erdogan confirmed buying more of the S-400 defense systems, 11 Democratic and Republicans house representatives asked Joe Biden’s administration and the Congress not to export F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

Read more about South Korea

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Twitter, October 2021, Free accessAltay power pack talks between Turkey, SKorea changes to off-the-shelf supply, Defense News, November 2021, Free accessU.S. lawmakers express concern over reports of potential Turkey F-16 purchase, Reuters, October 2021, Free access

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