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Armored Cars: Otokar Cobra II

March 14, 2016

Turkish Otokar Cobra 2 4x4

For such a popular vehicle there isn’t a lot of authoritative writing about the Otokar Cobra.

The fanfare wasn’t even as intense (well, compared to the JLTV) when the Cobra II was unveiled in 2013. The latest iteration of the Turkish bestseller resembles the KMW AMPV or the Renault Sherpa. There’s a good reason why.

A tactical vehicle at heart, the Cobra II emphasizes off-road mobility, armor, and additional passenger space. It’s really more of an armored truck now and seats nine–six passengers, one gunner, plus the driver and co-driver. Unlike the first Cobra, its “sequel” is patterned after an SUV with two additional doors behind the cab and a rear swing door.

Turkish Otokar Cobra 2 interior

Entering the Cobra II.

The Cobra II is recognizable for its prominent grille, elongated hull, and box-like appearance. Viewing slits and gun ports have been retained. These features are a departure from the first Cobra, which had a distinct v-hull and smaller dimensions reminiscent of the Panhard VBL.

According to specifications published by Otokar it can travel 700 kilometers on a full 200 liter tank with a top speed of 110 km/h. The Cobra II runs on a 281 horsepower diesel engine. Its amphibious variant uses a 360 hp power plant.

Turkish Otokar Cobra 2 sideview

The Cobra II at an arms show. Take note of the towing winch attached to the bumper.

The Turkish Army ordered its first batch of Cobra II’s in December 2015. These vehicles will be delivered and enter service by the first half of 2017.

The Cobra II is available as an APC and an amphibious APC. The difference are two propellers mounted on either side of its swing door where a spare tire is also attached. Then and now the Cobra’s biggest draw are its choice of [potential] armaments. Depending on what’s paid for these could be a one-man turret, a remote control station for ATGMs or SAMs, or even a 20mm or 25mm cannon.

Turkish Otokar Cobra

The Otokar Cobra with an M2 Browning mounted on an RWS.

The Cobra’s origins date to an obscure joint venture between Humvee manufacturer AM General and Otokar in the late 1980s. The result was an all-new lightweight 4×4 APC based on the chassis of the ubiquitous HMMWV. But not only was the Cobra a fresh spin on a proven design; it was a workhorse that could be adapted for any task. A neat protective feature are its front wheel arches that are blown off to absorb the shock wave of a mine blast.

Turkish Otokar Cobra in Kazakhstan

The Otokar Cobra in Kazakhstan.  The interior is spartan and the seats are tiny. The Cobra II can fit seven passengers along with the driver and co-driver.

From 1997 until the present the Cobra enjoyed robust sales across three continents including Turkey’s immediate neighbors. Cobra’s have been sold to Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Slovenia, and the UAE.

Turkish Otokar Cobra destroyed rear view

This Cobra (a non-amphibious variant) was captured during the Georgia-Russia War in 2008. It’s a tough vehicle with substantial armor protection at a time when most so-called tactical 4×4’s remain vulnerable to small arms fire.

The Cobra’s export to various developing countries has given it a mixed combat record. It fares poorly during conventional wars but is well-suited for counterinsurgency on a budget, i.e. Afghanistan, Nigeria, Eastern Turkey against the Kurds, and garden variety peacekeeping.

Turkish Otokar Cobra destroyed roadside

Even when knocked out and gutted by flames the Cobra’s hull remains intact. The majority of Humvees aren’t as hardcore.

Whether the Cobra II enjoys the success of its sibling has yet to be seen. Both vehicles were meant to perform any job in the battlefield. Given what the new Cobra can handle it’s undeniably another breakthrough for Turkey’s armaments firms.

Otokar is a leading manufacturer of buses, trucks, and armored vehicles. Its most ambitious project in the latter category is the Altay MBT, Turkey’s first indigenous third-generation tank. Founded in 1963 the half-century old firm is part of a vast conglomerate owned by the powerful Koç family.

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