ANKARA, Turkey, July 15 (UPI) -- Turkish exports of armored vehicles are expanding, including purchases by the United States for the first time.
A Turkish military senior procurement official involved with supporting Turkish arms exports, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Hurriyet that Turkish armored vehicle manufacturers are expanding beyond their traditional Middle Eastern markets.
"We are happy to see these companies now chasing deals in parts of the Far East they have not yet sold their products to, and there are initial signs of penetration into difficult markets like the U.S.," he said "All of that is very encouraging."
Turkey's Defense Industry Manufacturers Association Secretary-General Kaya Yazgan told Hurriyet, "The making of armored vehicles is one of the strongest sectors in our defense industry."
Istanbul's Otokar, which is owned by Turkey's top business conglomerate Koc Holding, produces seven armored vehicle variants and its 2010 sales to civilian and military clients topped $313 million.
In May Otokar displayed Turkey's first indigenously built tank, the Altay, at the IDEF'11 international defense industry fair in Istanbul.
Head of Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defense Industry Murad Bayar said Altay tanks would be entirely built in Turkey, with Turkish defense industry company Aselsan. It will build the Altay's electronic systems, providing Identification Friend-or-Foe systems.
Otokar officials say that Altay tanks will be ready for sale by 2016.
Otokar exports products to the armed forces of nearly 20 countries.
Last December Otokar said that it had received its first order from a foreign military for its ARMA new armored combat vehicle, which comes as either a 6x6 or 8x8 wheeled armored vehicle.
The company added that the ARMA, a modular multi-wheel configuration wheeled armored vehicle, would be exported before making its debut in the Turkish military. The amphibian vehicle weighs 20 tons fully loaded for combat and has a crew consisting of a driver, a commander and eight personnel. ARMA is transportable by various means including C130 aircraft.
Otokar also builds the Cobra, a 4x4 vehicle, which comes in 10 models designed for different missions. Otokar has sold Cobras to more than 10 other countries and the vehicle has been utilized in a variety of both NATO and U.N. missions.
"There is increasing demand for the Cobra from an increasing number of countries," Otokar said in a news release.
In 2009 Turkey's total arms exports amounted to $832 million. Other leading Turkish arms manufacturing companies include Hiscar Automotive Industries, Ankara's FNSS, which is 51 percent owned by Turkish business group Nurol and Izmir's BMC, which is owned by the Cukurova Holding industrial conglomerate.