Turkey to buy armored vehicles amid PKK talks
The Turkish Armed Forces has a contract with BMC for the acquisition of 468 Kirpi. BMC produced and delivered an initial batch of 293 Kirpi vehicles but failed to comply with the delivery schedule. DHA PhotoA Turkish move to purchase hundreds of armored vehicles for its land forces has puzzled military analysts and diplomats who were expecting a suspension in the government’s purchase of weaponry solely aimed at Kurdish militants amid the current peace process.
“It came as a surprise that the Turks are still too keen to buy the rest of the mine-resistant vehicles a producer had failed to deliver. A more politically consistent and financially rational move could have been to suspend this purchase at least … during the peace process,” said one senior EU ambassador in Ankara.
“The move, in a way, reveals that Ankara is powerfully calculating the possibility of a failure in negotiations with the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and of renewed violence,” a London-based military analyst said. “There is no other immediate security threat than the PKK that the Turkish army could use these vehicles for.”
Instead, the Turkish government has decided to go ahead with two contracts for new armored vehicles that will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
In July, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said Turkey would look for a new supplier for the 175 mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles (MRAPs) a local company had failed to deliver. “In coordination with the Armed Forces, we will look into a new model that will substitute for the undelivered Kirpis,” Yılmaz said.
Procurement officials said in addition to the 175 Kirpis for the army, the police force could order 20 of the same vehicle. They also said follow-up orders from both the army and the police were likely.
Failure in BMC orders
Earlier this year, the Turkish Armed Forces terminated a contract with Turkish armored vehicle producer BMC for the acquisition of 468 Kirpi vehicles the company would manufacture. The Kirpi is the country’s first locally designed and developed MRAP.
Under a 2009 contact with the Turkish government, BMC produced and delivered an initial batch of 293 Kirpi vehicles but failed to comply with the delivery schedule as stated in the original contract.
One source at BMC blamed “acute financing difficulties and failure to have access to a helping credit line” for the failure to deliver on time. Immediately after the termination of the contract, the country’s procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), fined BMC 8 million euros.
One of the major players in Turkey’s booming armored vehicles market, BMC, was seized in May by government authorities due to financial obligations its parent company failed to fulfill pending sale.
The Kirpi can accommodate 13 personnel. It can move over any ground condition at a maximum speed of 105 kilometers per hour.
In 2011, BMC was in talks with Iraq and Afghanistan to sell scores of the Kirpi to the insurgency-weary countries. Industry sources say they see significant demand for the Kirpi in countries exposed to the risk of mine and ballistic attack threats.
They also predict substantial foreign demand for the MRAP vehicle, including some Asian and African countries. BMC was planning to launch a special production line for right-hand drive version of the Kirpi.
Separately, SSM has recently announced a two-way competition for the acquisition of 184 tracked and 76 wheeled armored weapon carriers (a total of 260 vehicles). In late June, the office sent requests for proposal to two local armored vehicle manufacturers, Otokar and FNSS.
Procurement officials estimate this contract to be anywhere between $150 million and $200 million.
Presently, the Turkish army transports weapons with its aging M-113 armored carriers, Land Rovers and Willy’s.
In 2006, SSM announced competition for the purchase of 1,075 4x4 wheeled weapon carriers, issuing requests for a proposal in 2008. Local manufacturers Otokar, FNSS, Hema, Nurol and BMC submitted bids but in 2010 SSM canceled the competition.