(Bloomberg) -- Turkey could start testing a locally made tank in April, expanding a growing arsenal of national military hardware championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan weeks before the toughest election of his career.

Privately owned contractor BMC Savunma aims to deliver the first Altay tanks to the Turkish military on April 23, state-run Anadolu Agency cited Murat Yalcintas, the chief executive of parent company BMC, as saying. Tests will take up to two years, with mass production starting in the capital Ankara from 2025, he said.

Erdogan hopes ambitious military projects will increase his popularity among nationalist and conservative voters ahead of a May 14 election, where he faces a broad alliance of opposition parties. He’s already overseen the production of drones used in conflicts from Ukraine to Ethiopia, and a fighter jet.

Erdogan Flexes Military Muscle to Boost Support Ahead of Vote

The Altay tank includes enhancements from its 2014 prototype including reinforced armor, an active protection system and a new fire-control system. NATO-member Turkey could also export the tanks if the government approves it, Yalcintas said, citing demand from “many friendly and allied nations.”

South Korea’s Doosan Infracore Co. and S&T Dynamics Co. were picked to design and produce parts for the battle tanks, Bloomberg reported in March 2021. The deal came after European vendors, including from Germany, refused to supply the project amid concerns over Turkey’s military operations against separatist Kurdish militants.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.