Turkey’s International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF) 2023 was a hub of groundbreaking innovation, especially in armored vehicles. Renowned Turkish manufacturers like BMC, FNSS, OTOKAR, Nurol Makina, and Katmerciler participated, unveiling a range of novel platforms and configurations. Defense Update’s Weapon Systems Analyst Lt. Col. (Ret) Dan Zeevi attended the exhibition and reports.
The event offered a vivid display of what tops the Turkish Army’s wishlist—advanced turrets and active protection systems to multispectral camouflage and guided missiles. This article delves into the key highlights, focusing on the technologies that seem to align well with the future of armored warfare, based on the extensive experience gathered by the Turkish armed forces, defense industries, and their customers in battlefields in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Arabian Peninsula.
These armored vehicle companies, often competitors in both the domestic and international markets, showcased platforms with similar configurations, as they are aligned to the government directives to seek cooperation among local companies rather than join foreign partners for those technologies. This trend has been evident since the US embargo imposed after Turkey bought S400 air defense systems from Russia. The result – many of the vehicles on display were equipped with similar or identical turrets, APS, and other weapon systems, like Aselsan’s active protection systems and turrets, TDU’s multispectral camouflage systems, and Roketsan’s guided missiles, all of which are of significant interest to the Turkish Army.
Otokar and FNSS presented two solutions for a medium-weight tank — Tulpar and Kaplan. Otokar exhibited two variants of the Tulpar tank; one outfitted with the Cockerill 3105HP 105mm gun turret and the other featuring Aselsan’s 35mm gun Korhan Turret System, capable of firing ATOM airburst, armor-piercing, and high-explosive ammunition. This turret also integrates Aselsan’s Akkor active protection system. FNSS displayed several Kaplan Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) variants, including the Kaplan Medium Tank (MT). Unlike Tulpar, Kaplan MT has already been integrated into an army’s inventory and represents a joint development between FNSS and PT Pindad of Indonesia. The Kaplan Hybrid and Shadow Rider Heavy robotic vehicle were also interesting configurations on display.
Another key highlight was the BURÇ Air Defense System, an integrated turret mounted on an FNSS 8×8 RARS Scout vehicle. This system has four Retinar AESA radar panels, eight Sungur missiles, and a 3x20mm cannon. It is designed to detect and neutralize drones and loitering munitions.
Not to be overshadowed, the ARMA II 8×8 has shown impressive strides, with two new variants on display—a mobile repair and recovery vehicle and an armored fighting vehicle equipped with the Mizrak turret, which includes a 30mm canon and two OMTAS guided missiles. Despite ARMA’s absence in local orders, its export credentials are strong. The UAE has already procured 400 units of a total 700-unit program anticipated, and Kazakhstan is set to purchase over 800.
ARMA II’s Mobile Repair and Recovery Vehicle variant is designed to support mechanized units operating ARMA AFVs. The vehicle features a multifunctional capability, ranging from recovery operations to ground leveling and counter-obstacle measures.
BMC, which has dominated recent armored vehicle contracts, displayed its flagship platforms: the Firtina-II T-155mm Howitzer and Altay Main Battle Tank. Other noteworthy additions included the Vuran 4×4 Multi-Purpose Armored Vehicle and the ALTUĞ 8×8 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), showcasing a modular ceiling concept for mounting turrets up to 105mm in caliber.
IDEF 2023 was a testament to the rapid advancements in armored vehicle technology, particularly from Turkish manufacturers. The innovations on display were impressive, from medium-weight tanks to anti-drone systems and multi-purpose armored vehicles. As these technologies transition from prototypes to fielded systems, they will significantly enhance armed forces capabilities.