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Armored Cars: Otokar Akrep II

September 1, 2021
Via Otokar.

In 2019 one of Turkey’s leading manufacturers unveiled a hybrid electric armored vehicle it designated the Akrep II. Although Otokar emphasized it was just a demonstrator–a new fully electric variant is in the works–it succeeded in raising the company’s profile and offering a glimpse at the new direction Turkey’s domestic technological leaders want to take. Hybrid electric vehicles are far from experimental, even more so in a military context, but their economies of scale were never viable. Turkey is now the third NATO member whose military-industrial sector developed an indigenous hybrid armored vehicle. The Akrep II is so unique its closest competition is all the way in France.

Describing a vehicle as “hybrid electric” still brings some ambiguity. Yes, the Akrep II runs on an electric drivetrain connected to a battery, but it does have an engine compartment at the back where a conventional turbodiesel engine can be installed. A forthcoming “Akrep IIe” is in the works with all electric propulsion although the timeline until it enters the market hasn’t been confirmed. The Akrep IIe navigates open terrain and slopes just like a conventional armored truck. But what makes the Akrep II truly impressive is Otokar’s decision to mount an armament on its roof–in this case a 20mm cannon with a coaxial machine gun. Two years ago Otokar had media illustrating the many potential variants of the Akrep II including a fire support module with a very large main armament.

Of course, having such a large weapon station means there’s no space left in the cab for passengers. The Akrep II’s cab locates the driver in the middle, giving a broad field of view, and external cameras enhance this person’s situational awareness. At this stage protective features and lifesaving subsystems on the Akrep II are scarce as proving the vehicle’s mobility is paramount. Neither does the Akrep II have propellers under its hull for water crossings but given how Otokar’s well-known Cobra/Cobra II are amphibious adding this capability won’t be difficult.

The Akrep II isn’t entering production soon nor is the Turkish armed forces preparing to adopt it over an approved timeline. But hybrid electric mobility and the promise of fully electric vehicles is too significant for any committee to pass on. During the 2000s the US Army was so enthusiastic about hybrid electric mobility it conceptualized and launched a whole program called Manned Ground Vehicle (MGC) that envisioned a family of systems that could fight anywhere and reduce the logistical burden of fuel deliveries by a huge margin. Unfortunately, this program was cancelled. If the Turkish armed forces try the same in the 2020s the program requires a recapitalization of the country’s military-industrial sector as both hybrid and all electric vehicles alter every aspect of their assembly and engineering. It’s also vital that Turkey’s leading manufacturers cooperate on an unprecedented scale.

This is the ultimate importance of the Akrep II. If conventional 4×4’s are designed, built, and operated for widespread use then the fully electric power plant they run on is adaptable for larger and larger vehicles until even main battle tanks make the transition to fully electric mobility. Whatever the ultimate fate of the Akrep II/Akrep IIe it serves as an impressive concept that shows how Turkish land systems are beating their competition.

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