Between 2003-2010 around 170 M60-A1 tanks were upgraded by IMI at a cost of $687 million.

Turkey using Israeli-upgraded tanks in anti-Kurd offensive in Syria
Turkish soldiers stand on top of tanks near the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 15, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)


Turkey is using M60-A1 tanks upgraded by Israel during the height of diplomatic relations between the two countries in their offensive against the Kurds in northern Syria.

Pictures of M-60 tanks upgraded by Israeli Military Industries (IMI)  near the Turkish border town of Akcakale during Operation Peace Spring have circulated on social media. In the week since Turkey’s offensive began in northern Syria, hundreds of Kurds have been killed and 160,000 people, including 70,000 children, have been displaced from their homes.

All the main systems of M60-A1 tank, which were originally manufactured in the United States in the 1960s, were replaced with more advanced and modern systems already integrated into the main battle tanks of the IDF at a cost of $687 million.

Between 2003 and 2010, around 170 M60-A1 tanks were fitted with a 120 mm. cannon as well as advanced fire and turret control systems, and a new power unit with a 1000HP engine and transmission. The tanks were also fitted with hybrid armor (both active and passive) over its frontal arc.

Dozens of other subcontractors were involved in the project, with Israel’s Elbit systems as the primary subcontractor and smaller defense companies Urdan and Orlite also taking part.

“In order to continue with the positive contribution to peace and stability in the region that Turkey is located, it makes it compulsory for our armed forces to possess strong as well as deterrent capabilities,” Turkey’s then national defense minister Vecdi Gönül was quoted by the Defense Turkey news website as saying.

Turkey and Israel had been close allies in the defense industry, security cooperation, intelligence sharing and military training since the 1960s and peaking in the 1990s with the 1994 Defense Cooperation Agreement and 1996 Military Training Cooperation Agreement.

With those two agreements, the military-security ties became one of the closest in the Middle East, with Israel even providing intelligence to Turkey in its ongoing fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Ankara cooperated with Israel on Iran by providing intelligence it had gathered.

In addition, Turkey used to be one of Israel’s primary arms customers with Israeli firms upgrading F-4E planes for an estimated $1 billion as well as supplying Turkey with armed Heron drones for $200 million, electronic reconnaissance and surveillance systems at $200m. and advanced missile systems and smart ammunition for $150m.

The upgrades to the M60-A1 tanks were done as part of a larger defense pact between Israel and Turkey that spoke of the possible Israeli sale of a spy satellite, the Arrow missile defense system and Merkava tanks.

The Turks have in the past lost tanks in Syria, but in April 2016 an M60-A1 tank that had been upgraded by Israel was only slightly damaged in an attack by ISIS, which fired a Kornet anti-tank missile at Bashiqah in Iraq.

Israel’s defense ties with Turkey came to an end in 2010 as relations broke down between the countries following the Turkish flotilla’s attempt to reach the Gaza Strip.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post