Otokar expanding African presence

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Turkish vehicle manufacturer Otokar has a strong presence on the African continent, notably with its Cobra light armoured vehicle. This was displayed at the recent Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition during Otokar’s first visit to the show, as an indication of its deepening defence ties with Africa.

“In line with Turkey’s new approach to Africa as an integral part of its foreign policy and the decision of the African Union declaring Turkey as a strategic partner, Otokar gives utmost importance to developing new ties in Africa,” the company said during the recent Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition held outside Pretoria.
“In this respect, more and more African nations select Otokar as a supplier of armoured tactical vehicles for their armed forces and law enforcement agencies. Correspondingly, Otokar’s armoured tactical vehicles, and especially Cobra, have become an integral part of various peace keeping operations in Africa while contributing to a peaceful and prosperous future.”

The Cobra is in service with around a dozen countries, including several in Africa. Nigeria is the biggest operator in Africa, with 193 Cobras delivered (final deliveries were in 2008). Other operators include Slovenia, Georgia, Turkey, with reports of deliveries to Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. The Maldives has three in service.

The Cobra vehicle features a common platform that can be adapted for a variety of roles, and the vehicle can be used as a weapons carrier, reconnaissance vehicle, armoured personnel carrier, ambulance, NBC reconnaissance vehicle etc. Having a common platform simplifies the training of drivers and maintenance personnel and eases logistics. The Cobra can transport between four and nine people, including the driver, depending on configuration.

The monocoque V-shaped steel hull provides protection against small arms fire (including 5.56 and 7.62 mm rounds), mines, IEDs and shrapnel. The front wheel arches are designed to be blown away in event of an explosion. Additional bolt-on armour can be added for better protection. The vehicle is powered by a V8 turbo diesel engine, driving all four wheels, which feature independent suspension and a central tyre inflation system. Top speed of the 6 200 kg Cobra is around 115 km/h.

Various turrets and weapons systems are available, including the Rafael overhead weapon station (OWS) with Rafael Spike anti-tank missiles, 40 mm grenade launcher and Nexter 20 mm M621 cannon.

Otokar’s presence at AAD 2012 was another indication of the growing defence ties between Turkey and South Africa. In June Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and then-Minister of Defence Lindiwe Sisulu visited Turkey and after the visit announced they would sign a Defence Industry Cooperation Agreement.

During the visit an agreement on the establishment of the South Africa-Turkey Bi-National Commission was signed. The Commission will enhance co-operation between the two countries in the fields of politics, economics, trade, defence, security, agriculture, minerals, energy, education, tourism, sport and environment.

South Africa has in the past bid for a number of Turkish defence projects. Denel was shortlisted to supply its Rooivalk attack helicopter to Turkey but in 2007 the AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta won the contract. Denel’s Mechem is currently shortlisted for a de-mining contract, which will soon be announced by the Turkish government.

Otokar started military vehicle production in the mid-1980s, building armoured cars and military Land Rover Defenders. In the early 1990s the company developed the Akrep armoured personnel carrier and Cobra and light armoured vehicle. Otokar’s armoured vehicle family includes the Arma mine resistant armoured personnel carrier, Kaya mine-protected vehicle, Yavus 8×8 armoured vehicle and Turkey’s first main battle tank, the Altay. Otokar is the main land systems supplier to the Turkish Armed Forces while over 25 000 Otokar military vehicles are actively used in more than 20 countries by nearly 40 users.