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Turkey to export mine-resistant vehicles

ANKARA, Turkey, July 29 (UPI) -- Turkey's first indigenously produced mine resistant vehicle, the "Kirpi," already in service with the Turkish armed forces, will soon be exported to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Built by Turkey's BMC company, the Kirpi has a 350 PS engine, 4x4 wheel configuration and can carry 15 personnel, the Anadolu Ajansi news agency reported Friday.

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BMC has supplied the Turkish military with 150 Kirpis, and has orders for 350 more.

BMC, with headquarters in Izmir, is owned by industrial conglomerate Cukurova Holding and is one of the Turkey's leading commercial vehicle manufacturers active in the country's transportation market. It has been the nation's leading manufacturer of buses for domestic use, along with being the country's second-largest producer of trucks for export.

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In 2009 Turkey's defense industry exported arms and other defense equipment worth $669 million, its highest level of exports in its history.

The Defense Industry Manufacturers Association, or SaSad, noted in a report that the 2009 export figures represented a 16 percent increase over 2008, which was $576 million and that the increase came "despite the global financial crisis."

SaSad data indicate, Turkey's defense industry exported arms worth $331 million in 2003, $196 million in 2004, $337 million in 2005, $352 million in 2006 and $420 million in 2007.

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Of the 2008 exports, 33 percent were involved to space and aviation, 29 percent in land vehicles and other platforms, 13 percent in electronics and electro-optics exports, 9 percent apiece to weapons, ammunition, rockets, missiles, software and information technologies and another 7 percent in other miscellaneous sectors.

Land platforms are the Turkish defense industry's strongest sector and companies including Otokar, FNSS, BMC, MAN Turkey, Mercedes Benz Turkey and Nurol have sold various types of armored vehicles, both tracked and wheeled, to more than 15 countries ranging from those in the Balkans to those in the Middle East and Asia over the past decade.

In February Turkey's armored vehicle giant FNSS Savunma Sistemleri A.S. Defense Systems, Inc. signed a $600 million contract with Malaysian officials to provide the Malaysian military with 257 PARS 8x8 armored personnel carriers or infantry fighting vehicles in 12 configurations. It marked the largest single export deal in the history of Turkey's defense industry.

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The IFV project is expected to be completed in seven years with the first two prototype vehicles being produced in two separate configurations for testing, after which mass production will start.

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