Joint Turkish-Israeli Tank Upgrade Programme Completed

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defpro.com | From old to new. As the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) recently announced, a joint programme with Turkey to refurbish ageing M60A1 main battle tanks has been completed this week. Within the framework of a agreement worth nearly $700 million, signed in March 2002, the programme has been carried out by the Turkish Defence Ministry and the Israeli companies Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems. Since the beginning of the programme some 170 40-year old M60A1’s, which are part of a significant fleet of tanks of this type bought from US surplus, have received extensive upgrades to the Sabra Mk.II standard and are now designated as M60T. According to the IDF statement, these upgrades provide the tanks with the capabilities to keep up with the most advanced tanks in the world.

The upgrade kits, provided by Israeli-based Israel Military Industries (IMI), include the integration of have state of the art weapons systems that combine fire power, sensors and additional capabilities and protection. As the IDF explain: “The eight-year long project, which has been deemed extremely successful, replaced all major systems of the original tank with advanced modern systems. 120 mm cannon control systems, enhanced fire power, advanced turret moving, protection systems, engine transmission changes and other major improvements were made on the tanks. The end result is a high performance tank that is in line with the world’s leading combat tanks.”

The US-built M60 is among the most successful tanks of the world, being operated in their thousands by several armies of the world. To meet the modernisation requirements of international customers General Dynamics developed the M60-2000 upgrade for the M60 which was also offered to Turkey. However, Turkey decided to carry out the modernisation of its tanks with Israeli industrial support. The M60 has seen combat operation with the Israeli Army in different configurations and versions in the Yom Kippur War (1973) and the Lebanon War (1982). IMI began to develop the Magach 6 and 7 upgrade series for the M60 in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The current modernisation efforts are significantly based on these upgrade series for the Israeli Army.

The refurbished Turkish tanks have been equipped with a Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV), a more powerful MTU Friedrichshafen engine built under license in Turkey with a Renk transmission. Furthermore the tanks feature reactive armour for protection against ballistic threats.

A ceremony held this week at the 2nd Main Maintenance Centre in Kayseri, attended by Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul, senior Defence officials of Turkey and Israel, marked the end of the joint tank modernisation programme. Director General of the Israeli Defence Ministry, Maj. Gen. (res) Udi Shani, said, “I am proud to be here on Turkish soil and to take part in this ceremony. Another joint project has ended successfully. This project is unique in its scope in both countries, which recruited its best forces for the mission.”

The CEO of Israel Military Industries, Brig. Gen (res.) Avi Felder, who was among the initiators of the project, praised the fruitful cooperation between the Turkish and Israeli teams. Felder said that this project reflected the company’s management and implementation of complex projects that require cooperation with the client’s operational requirements. IMI chairman, Avner Raz, expressed his confidence in this project: “The project is evidence of successful cooperation between the defence industries and it led to the development of the most advanced combat tanks in the world.”

The Turkish-Israeli co-operation might also be a successful model for the future: In his speech at the hand-over ceremony, Turkey’s Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul explained that, in order to access the knowledge and experience acquired in the course of the project, Israel Aircraft Industries and a Turkish company had signed a cooperative agreement, with the goal of working together on additional projects throughout the world. The minister added that the Deputy Commander of the Colombian Army, General Aradilo, came to examine the M60T’s performance.
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