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Interview

CES Advanced Composites & Defence Technologies Exporting High Technology Solutions to the World

In our interview, Selçuk ŞENTÜRK, General Manager of CES, discusses exports results, ambitious goals with exports being vital for both the company and our country. With intention to grow on this path, creating employment, and developing new solutions/technologies, Açık Group is focused on taking the necessary steps to make CES an international brand and to be number one in the industry.

Issue 97

Defence Turkey: Mr. ŞENTÜRK, first of all, thank you for taking the time for this interview. What can you say about the current infrastructure, manufacturing capacity, and technologies used in the production facilities of CES Advanced Composites and Defence Technologies?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: We have the most advanced infrastructure, machinery, and equipment regarding advanced composite manufacturing in International Aviation standards at CES's modern production facilities. We determine our manufacturing methods according to the specific requirements of our customers, and we opt for the most cost-effective process that delivers the highest quality based on our engineering studies. Additionally, we have high-pressure heat press machines that are not used by most composite manufacturers. We use these presses in special aviation projects and ballistic composite manufacturing. 

The aviation industry has rigorous quality control requirements. We have internalized these procedures and use them in all activities of CES Advanced Composite except for aviation. We crown our distinct qualifications with these quality certifications.

CES Advanced Composite develops ballistic solutions for both platforms and personal protection. We have a highly experienced team, each of whom has been working in the field of ballistics for about 15 years. Experience and testing are essential factors for ballistics. You choose a material, determine the process, finalize your prototype, and test what you produce, then depending on your results, you return to the material and process stage again. This is a costly, labor-intensive cycle. 

As CES Advanced Composites, we focus on what is needed in Turkey and the world, and how we can reduce the weight and cost of the solutions offered. With the experience of our team, we develop materials for unique solutions. We have an outstanding supplier network both at home and abroad. Thanks to our expertise and knowledge, we can communicate very well with our suppliers at the technical level. This communication allows us to continue our work without any problems in the supply chain.

When people who closely follow the studies and products abroad see what we have achieved, they affirm that we are ahead of our European competitors in most cases. I would especially like to emphasize that there is no technology transfer in our works; everything is the original product of CES Advanced Composite. The reason we can develop these products so quickly is the experience of our team and the motivation that our country needs for these products. We promptly introduced all our ballistic products in both vehicle protection and personal protection thanks to our infrastructure equipped with the highest level of technology and our continuous efforts. We even successfully exported one of our solutions. We have completed the serial production of the helmets ordered from abroad and delivered them. We continue our export activities with similar projects.

Defence Turkey: As CES, you continue your production activities in three different fields: Aviation, Ballistic Protection, and Defence. Could you enlighten our readers about CES's capabilities and studies on aerial platforms and its recent deliveries?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: Among the ballistic solutions we have developed, the configurations we have created for aircraft have an essential place. As you know, while weight is a crucial factor for all kinds of vehicles, it is vital for aircraft. Providing armor protection to aircraft already operating at their limits also brings specific difficulties. However, thanks to our in-depth material knowledge and R&D infrastructure, we can offer users the lightest armor solutions possible. In addition to the floor armor solutions we have developed for different helicopter platforms so far, we are also developing “wing armor,” which provides protection against much more advanced threats for critical personnel and crew. The last example of this is the composite armor solution we have designed and qualified for Turkish Aerospace as part of the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP). 

As a subcontractor of Turkish Aerospace, we continue to manufacture composite parts for various helicopter and aircraft platforms. In addition to the current projects, we also try to support and participate, especially in the development of national platforms as much as we can. 

Defence Turkey: As CES, you took part in the armoring of Black Hawk and Mi-17 helicopters domestically, and in the international arena, you are the solution partner of Paramount Group in helicopter armoring. You are currently one of the two qualified companies in the world that are competent and certified to produce armor kits (both cockpit and base) for Black Hawk helicopters. What can you tell us about the work you have carried out and/or ongoing activities in cooperation with Paramount Group in the field of helicopter armoring and helicopter models?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: We care about working with partners that we can find common ground with and produce mutual benefits both at home and abroad. Our cooperation with Paramount Group is the result of this approach. Of course, seeing our products included in such a prestigious consortium makes us very proud. This relationship has emerged thanks to the successful moves of our highly experienced and competent international sales and marketing team. Hopefully, we will share more good news about this cooperation in the future. 

Defence Turkey: As part of the MİLGEM Project, you have worked on armoring the critical components of ships, and you have participated in the M60T FIRAT modernization program with your spall liner solution. Could you briefly inform us about the defence projects that CES has accomplished so far?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: The critical names in our engineering team started their first ballistic adventure by developing an armor solution for MİLGEM. They have designed and manufactured composite armor for more than 2,000 platforms within CES, such as wheeled armored vehicles, tanks, helicopters, and naval vessels of different sizes. In addition to composite armors, most of these vehicles also have metal-to-composite parts developed by CES engineers. It will not be correct to mention customer and platform names here, but it is possible to come across different CES products on various domestically produced platforms recently. 

Defence Turkey: On the vehicle protection side, what can you tell us about your add-on armor or spall liner products that you have also exported successfully?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: When we started working on these systems, all the solutions that we can produce domestically today had been acquired from abroad. As CES, when we went to the Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) and the companies related with our indigenous solutions, and we received considerable support from both sides. Especially from the high-level officials working in the relevant departments in the SSB, they have firmly supported our work as they know the strategic importance of the matter very well. By working closely with our customers, we have developed solutions that can compete with imported products in terms of ballistic protection, weight, and price, and pass all the qualification and environmental tests. We are also very pleased as we can now offer these solutions to our international customers as well. Currently, we continue to mass-produce our spall liner and add-on armor solutions with different features for different customers and platforms. Considering our current capacity, I can say that we are indeed among the few companies operating in the field of armoring not only in our country but also in the world. 

Defence Turkey: On the personal protection side, you offer products such as ballistic vests, helmets, plates, and shields. As one of the three companies that produce ballistic helmets in Turkey, CES closely follows the tenders opened by the Turkish Armed Forces and the General Directorate of Security. To meet the requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces, a new tender with a relatively large amount of anticipated purchase was expected to be initiated by the SSB for a new ballistic helmet model resistant to rifle bullets with add-on armor (applique) plates. Has the tender process started yet? Could you enlighten our readers about the product you have proposed or will offer in the tender?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: A few years ago, Turkey bought ballistic helmets from a foreign country because of its urgent needs. With a national responsibility, we started to look for indigenous solutions based on the idea of "Why shouldn’t we produce these in Turkey?" With the support of our Group, studies were initiated on this process with high motivation. We aimed to create a product with the highest level in terms of both design and ballistic protection. Our results demonstrate that we have achieved this goal. Our solutions are absolutely on par with the products that are considered to be the best in the world in terms of weight, protection level, and ergonomics. Moreover, with our original materials and process, we have managed to reduce the manufacturing costs significantly.

It makes all employees of the Açık Group, especially our senior management, very proud to see that a Turkish company that has managed to indigenously develop an imported product that is needed by the Armed Forces.  As the Açık Group, we approach the issue with a sense of national responsibility. To meet the rapidly developing and changing defence needs of our country, we spare no expense to be ready in every field where we have the technological capability.  We started our serial production in ballistic helmets for export, but we made our first delivery to the Turkish Armed Forces with a tender we won in 2019. As of this year, we have manufactured and delivered over 10 thousand helmets to our Land forces, and we have another 17 thousand orders that are part of the 2020 production plan.

Apart from the ballistic helmet we mentioned, we also have products in two different categories. One of them is a much lighter helmet solution made from high-performance materials, and the other one is an add-on armor plate we have developed to stop rifle bullets. Although there is not a tender with these demands yet, we continue to develop our solutions in close contact with the authorities.  

Defence Turkey: Could you enlighten our readers about CES's position in the international market, its export targets, and its features and superiorities that make it different from its competitors in the market?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: Although CES's international marketing activities date back to two years ago, I can say that we have come a long way in a short time. We continue our Europe focused marketing activities with a highly experienced and competent team. After our London office in the UK, we are launching an R&D/manufacturing workshop in Coventry as of this year. By participating in major defence fairs and B2B meetings in the world, we strive to promote CES via every medium. Thanks to these efforts, we have managed to reach a significant number of customer portfolios in a short time, and we expect this number to increase even more by the end of this year.  

Defence Turkey: What can you tell us about the ongoing export activities of CES, the most important export markets of the company, followed tenders abroad, and the share of exports in turnover?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: It is considerably easier for companies to sell in the domestic market, especially in the field of defence and aviation. On the other hand, as CES Advanced Composites, we accomplished the more difficult market and exported our products before selling them in the domestic market. Our original ballistic helmet was the first example.

There is significant demand worldwide, especially in the field of ballistic protection, and we have high expectations in this field. We aim to increase our exports significantly, and we are expanding our team in this direction. Thus, we added Murat ÖZMEN as the Global Markets Business Development Director and expert technicians from leading European companies in the field of advanced ballistic protection to our team, and we also benefit from their experience.

We started our export activities in the second half of 2018. In 2018, the share of exports in our turnover was 10%. Our goal is to reach a figure between 10% to 30% in 2019. In 2020, we aim to exceed 50%.

Defence Turkey: What can you say about the expectations and goals of CES Advanced Composites & Defence Technologies for the next ten years? 

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: As a domestic and national company, CES aims to expand into global markets. Of course, we care about our local market share and our customers, and we do not want to lose our weight here. On the other hand, we want to significantly increase our export volume by offering high technology solutions to the world. We consider that exports are vital for both our company and our country. We intend to grow on this path, create employment, and develop new solutions/technologies. We are trying to take the necessary steps to make CES an international brand and to be number one in our industry.  

Defence Turkey: Is there anything else you would like to add as a message to our readers?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: We receive very positive reactions and praise in different places and platforms related to our work, and this motivates us as much as it makes us happy. As the CES family, we are strongly committed to what we do, and we attach the utmost importance to our work. From our managers to engineers, we all know how vital our products are for our customers. Thus, we always uphold this responsibility with our dedication and commitment.

Defence Turkey: Once again, thank you for taking your time and valuable contributions …