Korean Powerpack Starts the Test Campaign on the ALTAY MBT

Date: Issue 114 - July 2022

On May 11, 2022, the President of Defense Industries, Prof. İsmal DEMİR, talked about the developments in the Turkish defense industry on NTV live broadcast. DEMİR pointed out that the engines from Korea were integrated into the ALTAY Main Battle Tank (MBT) prototype with promising results during the ongoing tests. DEMİR also stated that the testing of the 1,500 hp indigenous tank engine BATU has started, and integration activities of this engine with the domestic transmission still continue. "We have integrated the Korean powerpack into the ALTAY MBT prototypes and began testing with very good results. This is the first time this powerpack has been integrated into a tank. This powerpack is different from the ones used in Korean tanks because they still use the German transmission. At the moment, we have reached a certain point with South Korea for the serial production of the powerpack. We expect to start the serial production of the ALTAY MBT with this powerpack within two years. The testing process may take a little longer as the transmission will be used for the first time."

Regarding the procurement of Korean Powerpack, Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt ÇAVUŞOĞLU, previously made an official visit to South Korea between October 21-24, 2021. On October 22, he met with KANG Eun-ho, the head of South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), and signed a letter of intent (LoI), approving the sale of the ALTAY Tank's powerpack.

Later in December 2021, President of Defense Industries İsmail DEMİR shared further information about the procurement of the Korean Powerpack at the "Global Strategies Conference in the Defense and Aerospace Industry '21" held in Antalya. DEMİR shared details about the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the parties of both countries following the signing of the Letter of Intent (LoI) in Seoul, "Due to the COVID Pandemic, there was a considerable slowdown on the Korean side. The PowerPack issue was discussed again during the visit of our Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the necessary agreements were signed for the export permit. Then there is the issue of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). We had various conversations with our Korean Counterparts via teleconference. We are planning a face-to-face meeting with them in February to discuss the signing issue. Korean authorities informed us that they had overcome the temporary slowdown caused by the pandemic, and they will accelerate the process again by taking high-level initiative. They stated that it took some time to establish coordination because multiple companies were involved in the process."

Signed on November 9, 2018, the EUR3.5 billion ALTAY MBT Serial Production Contract covers the production and delivery of 251 tanks in three different configurations, 40 T1, 210 T2, and 1 T3 prototype with an unmanned turret. However, the contract could not enter into force even after a long time, and T0 could not be initiated due to problems in the procurement of critical subsystems. A domestic design powerpack was planned to be used in some of the ALTAY tanks manufactured under the Serial Production Phase, and the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) signed a contract with BMC Power on June 13, 2018. The ALTAY MBT Powerpack, which will be developed in 'U-Drive' configuration, was named BATU, which consists of a V12 diesel engine producing at least 4,600 Nm torque and 1,500 hp, a fully automatic cross-drive steering transmission (6 forward and 2 reverse gears), cooling package, and related subsystems.

Speaking at the Defense Technologies Days (DTD), organized by Istanbul Technical University, on March 24-26, 2021, the Head of the Engine and Power Train Systems Department at the Presidency of Defence Industries, Mesude KILINÇ, shared that the on-tank acceptance of the BATU powerpack is planned to begin in 2024. KILINÇ stressed the challenging test process for BATU, including the 10,000km mobility test on the ALTAY MBT that awaited them. KILINÇ added, "The BATU engine and transmission project is being developed for the ALTAY MBT. We signed the contract in 2018, and we aim to accomplish the powerpack's acceptance in the tank in 2024. A truly challenging test process lies ahead, not to mention the 10,000km tests on the tank. In line with the project, a V12 diesel engine is being developed. We are also developing fully automatic six forward and two reverse cross-drive transmissions in this project. Volume limitation is our most significant problem. The ALTAY's engine compartment leaves us limited space. BATU needs to provide high power, yet we need to accomplish this at a relatively smaller volume. Mission profile and load spectrum studies need to be planned very well. We built the mission profiles with the support of TAF-NATO operations. Each of the critical subsystems is being developed by companies with remarkable competence in the world. Whereas in our project, we are developing subsystems indigenously while fulfilling the final engine and transmission performance goals, and this is a really challenging objective. Currently, we are proceeding in line with our schedule, and soon, we will share some good news regarding the project. However, we are constantly managing risks and striving to render the process ready for the schedule identified for 2024. The transmission will be the most challenging part regarding ALTAY's powerpack."

It has been decided to use the Korean Powerpack in the first 100 ALTAY MBTs to be produced until the BATU Powerpack is ready (as usual, the test process of a powerpack, both on the test rig and the vehicle, takes over 3 years and can be completed in 2.5 years at best, even if the process is accelerated). Since the existing engine compartment in the ALTAY MBT has limited space, the Korean Powerpack will be fitted into that area as part of the integration activities. During this time, the powerpack will be validated both in the laboratory environment and on the ALTAY MBT.

The Doosan Infracore product DV27K is a 1,500 hp (1,100 kW) rated 4-cycle 12-cylinder (V12) twin-turbocharged & air-to-water intercooled 27.2-liter diesel engine with Compacted Graphite Iron (CGI) cylinder blocks. While the engine's nominal speed is 2,000 rpm (revolutions per minute), its speed increases to 2,700 rpm while producing 1,479 hp. Equipped with a fully electronically controlled Common Rail Injection System, the DV27K engine can produce 4,560 Nm (newton meter) torque at 2,000 rpm. The DV27K engine is 1,828 mm long, 1,060 mm wide, and 1,126 mm high and has a dry weight of 2,578 kg. The EST15K Transmission has a capacity for 140 Liters of oil, six forward and three reverse gears, and a Hydraulic Torque Converter with an automatic lockup clutch. The dry weight of the transmission is given as 2,500kg in the product brochure. The EST15K, which can be used in tanks up to 65 tons, can be combined with both the Doosan DV27K and MTU MT883 Ka-501 engines. It is stated that with the domestic powerpack, K2 tanks can reach up to 50 km/h cross-country and 68 km/h on roads and can traverse a maximum range of 450km with internal fuel. However, while a K2 Black Panther Tank (with 56 tons combat weight) can accelerate from 0 to 32 km/h in 7 seconds with the MTU MT883 Ka-501 V12 diesel engine and Renk HSWL 295TM automatic transmission, it has been claimed that the K2 MBT could reach this speed in about 8 seconds with the Korean Powerpack. The 63.5-ton ALTAY MBT, which uses the EuroPowerPack consisting of the MTU MT883 Ka-501CR V12 diesel engine and Renk HSWL 295TM automatic transmission weighing 2,450kg with five forward and five reverse gears, can accelerate from 0 to 32km in 6 seconds and can reach 30km/h in the reverse direction (again in 6 seconds). It is stated that the ALTAY tank, with a combat weight of 63.5 tons, can reach a top speed of 65.5km/h with the EuroPowerPack.

According to the S&T Dynamics Military Products Catalog, the Operational Tests of the EST15K system, which were carried out in coordination with the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), were completed on May 2, 2013. During the Development Tests conducted in coordination with South Korea's Agency for Defense Development (ADD), it has met all 82 requirements, except the 9,600km durability test. According to the company's claim, a K2 MBT (full combat weight) equipped with the EST15K Transmission was able to complete 85.4% (8,198km) of the required 9,600km during the Durability Test. However, according to an article written by Kim Byung-WOOK in South Korea on July 16, 2020, it was claimed that the EST15K Transmission system failed six times during the performance tests (durability tests) conducted in 2014, and the transmission failed after 237 hours of continuous operation.

South Korea started the XK2 MBT Development Program in 1995, and the first XK2 prototype was displayed in 2007. At the end of a 13-year development process, it became ready for serial production in 2008 as K2. After an extensive testing process, a US$820 million contract was signed in December 2014 for the first batch of 100 K2 Black Panther tanks, and the deliveries were completed in November 2016. Since the domestic powerpack was not ready at the time, the first batch of 100 K2 tanks was equipped with the EuroPowerPack consisting of the German MTU MT883 Ka-501 diesel engine and the Renk HSWL 295TM Transmission. After lengthy and costly studies (due to technical problems in the domestic powerpack development process, the K2 Project was delayed for more than two years), South Korea managed to develop a domestic powerpack in 9 years (2005-2014). Hyundai Rotem signed a contract for the second batch of 106 K2 tanks on December 29, 2015, but the vehicles continued to have powerplant issues due to the S&T Dynamics transmission failing durability tests. The second batch production was initially planned to be started in 2014 but has been postponed due to repeated failures of the local transmission system. In February 2018, South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced that a hybrid powerpack consisting of the locally developed DV27K Diesel Engine and the German product Renk HSWL 295TM Automatic Transmission will be used in the second batch of tanks. December 22, 2020, Hyundai Rotem announced that the company was awarded a US$481 million contract by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) for the production of an additional third batch of K2 Black Panther MBTs for the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA). Although the domestically designed and produced EST15K Automatic Transmission was intended to be used with the DV27K Diesel Engine in the third, the decision was made to keep the hybrid powerpack as the homegrown transmission failed in durability tests. However, according to an article written by Kim Byung-WOOK in South Korea on December 6, 2021, it was claimed that the next batch of South Korea's K2 Black Panther MBTs are expected to run on the locally made transmission system instead of the German one. According to a high-ranking official at S&T Dynamics, the company solved the technical issues of the EST15K Transmission system, and the fourth production of the K2 tank will include the domestic transmission system.

The EuroPowerPack used in the ALTAY MBT has a U-configuration in which the engine is placed parallel to the transmission. The EuroPowerPack incorporates the newest member of the 880 series diesel engine family produced by the German company MTU, the 12-cylinder (V12) MT883 Ka-501CR diesel engine with a Common Rail Injection (CRI) system, which provides improved fuel efficiency. The torque value of the MT883 Ka-501CR Engine, which has a length of 1,488 mm, a width of 972 mm, and a height of 742 mm, is given as 3,687 ft-lb (4,999 Nm) at 2,000 rpm. With a volume of 27.4 liters and a dry weight of 1,800 kg (3,968 lb), the MT883 Ka-501CR engine can produce 1,200 kW (1,630 hp) in standard configuration. The engine has an oil capacity of 80 kg (21.13 gallons) and a nominal speed of 3,000 rpm. It can produce 1,496 hp at 2,700 rpm. Since the engine power was defined as 1,500 hp in the ALTAY MBT Project specifications, the MT883 Ka-501CR diesel engine with a capacity of 1,630 hp was "downgraded" (with software) before being sent to Turkey and installed in the tanks. Another significant difference between the ALTAY MBT Powerpack from the EuroPowerPack systems used in other tank models is that it has the most effective Cooling System in its class. In every tank in the world, when the predefined operating temperature values are exceeded, the engine gradually decreases its power in a controlled manner so that it does not overheat, and the tank can continue its mission. The cooling system in the ALTAY MBT powerpack is designed to operate at the highest predefined operating temperatures without causing any horsepower loss. Otokar engineers also took part in the development of this cooling system.

During the ALTAY MBT Development Phase, a total of 5 sets of EuroPowerpacks were procured under the EUR12 Million contract signed in October 2010. Four of them were used in the PV1, PV2, MTR (Mobility Test Rig), and FTR (Firing Test Rig) Prototype and Pre-Prototypes, and the 5th powerpack was used in the tank chassis (prototype No.5), which Otokar produced on its own initiative for use in mobility tests. The 5th powerpack was financed by Otokar's own resources. The ALTAY AHT (Asymmetric Warfare Tank), exhibited by Otokar at the IDEF '17 Fair, was based on the body/chassis of the ALTAY MBT prototype number 5. At the end of Phase 1 of the ALTAY MBT Project, Otokar delivered 4 Pre-Prototypes and Prototypes (PV1, PV2, MTR, and FTR) with the EuroPowerPack to the Presidency of Defense Industries. However, it is claimed that Otokar also delivered the 5th EuroPowerpack to the SSB. Thus, until the Korean Powerpack deliveries begin, only 5 ALTAY T1 tanks could be produced with the existing powerpack sets in the first phase.

As pointed out above, the Korean Powerpack is expected to be used the first 100 ALTAY MBTs to be produced until the development, testing, and production processes of the indigenous BATU powerpack are ready. It is believed that 2 Powerpacks were received from Korea and were integrated into the ALTAY MBT prototype. Since the Korean Powerpack is heavier and has a slightly larger volume than the current EuroPowerPack and provides less torque, additional engineering work will be required to successfully integrate the Korean Powerpack into the existing ALTAY MBT prototypes or pre-prototypes. Moreover, Durability Tests need to be carried out again in different terrain and weather conditions with the Korean Powerpack equipped ALTAY prototypes for qualification purposes. This process is expected to take an average of 3-6 months. During the System Qualification and Acceptance Tests under Phase-I of the ALTAY MBT Project, 10,000 km Durability and Mobility Tests were carried out with the PV1 prototype in various terrain and season/weather conditions. During the tests, the MTR and FTR pre-prototypes and the PV1 and PV2 prototypes covered approximately 26,000 km in total. According to İsmail DEMİR, if the Korean Powerpack performs successfully in the tests, it will be possible to use it in the Serial Production process in two years, following its certification for the ALTAY MBT. However, in order not to experience new delays in the Serial Production process planned as T0+24 months and to achieve the monthly production speed of 6 units as committed under the contract, the deliveries of other critical subsystems other than the powerpack must also be in line with the  ALTAY MBT Serial Production schedule