Crucial Programs Scheduled for 2020 in the Defence Industry!

Date: Issue 97 - January 2020

President of Defence Industries Prof. İsmail DEMİR and Vice Presidents Dr. Celal Sami TÜFEKÇİ, Mustafa Murat ŞEKER, Serdar DEMİREL, Harun ÇELİK and Prof. Faruk YİĞİT, came together with members of the media at the Ankara campus of the Presidency in order to make an overall assessment of 2019. SSB President Prof. DEMİR also shared critical information with the media about the activities scheduled for the upcoming year.

Emphasizing the importance of sustainability in the defence industry, Prof. DEMİR said that they, as an institution, aim to cater to the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and that a continuous structure for export has to be achieved because domestic consumption in the defence industry is, in a sense, limited.  Prof. DEMİR stated that they have cooperated with many countries in the defence industry and that they have contributed to the participation of companies in international fairs and they have taken part in interstate export agreements when necessary. He noted that they have provided critical support  to companies when the creation of a credit mechanism was needed in this context.

Stating that they are open to various collaborations in the defence industry which require considerable resources, Prof. DEMİR said, “When we talk about domestic and national products, we don't think that we should possess all products and not share anything with anyone. I would like to express that we are open to collaborations with allied countries as long as it does not restrict us and does not interfere with our free will and technology participation.”

Underlining the need to ensure the effectiveness of the lower and middle tier companies forming the defence industry pyramid in advanced technologies by strengthening them via the Presidency of Industries (SSB), Prof. DEMİR said, “In order to create competent companies, we have taken important steps to support various investments, to be partners and to invest in fields where we are insufficient in terms of technology with SSTEK that is a 100% SSB company. Our most important company here is ULAK. This company has been developing notable R&D products that will overcome foreign dependency by teaming up with other defence industry companies such as Aselsan, Havelsan, etc.” 

Giving brief information about the investments made and to be made by SSTEK Company, Prof. DEMİR said, “There is still existing external dependency in the antenna field. We have founded a company related to the MAST system. There is no company dealing with sophisticated braking systems. We accompany our companies to support new technologies in the fields of boron, satellite imaging and nano-technology.”

SSB President Prof. DEMİR: “T0 will initiate following the finalization of the engine supply process”

During the Q&A session, Prof. DEMİR shared crucial information about the latest status of the ALTAY MBT. Prof. DEMİR said that there is a (T0+18) month schedule for the delivery of the first tank, however the project schedule has not yet started due to restrictions on engine and transmission. Prof. DEMİR: “We made an application to the company for the powerpack but the T0 process cannot initiate because the company does not have engines and transmissions. We publicly declared the project schedule for the first tank as T0+18 months. We were expecting the application to be finalized, but we did not receive any positive or negative response, yet. This issue is pending, but the seeking of alternative engine options is still going on. We expect that this will also be finalized soon. After the finalization of the powerpack and the qualification of the production line, the T0 process will become effective”. For the question of whether there is a deadline to initiate the ALTAY serial production project, Prof. DEMİR said that giving a deadline to the company would be an ultimatum due to parameters beyond the company’s power. “The restriction here is the situation of the country, so we do not speak of any deadline. We can say that it will start whenever we get results. We have four powerpacks available from the prototype stage. We will start the first part with them, but it is not very feasible to produce merely four Tank and then wait. We will pass this stage very quickly, because really positive developments are available.”

Prof. DEMİR: “The first system will be installed and ready in April 2020.”

Also providing information on the S-400's test process and the delivery of the second system, Prof DEMİR said, “The first system will be ready in April 2020 after the related training and integration are complete. We declared to the public that the second system will be delivered in the coming period. Co-production, etc. we don't mean history at the moment because some details have been studied. But this system will come in the coming period. We don't want to set a deadline at the moment because some details are being reviewed, such as co-production, which is a corequisite for giving a deadline. But this system will materialize in the coming period.”

Prof. DEMİR: “No substantial development regarding SU-35 yet.”

Making statements on the F-35 program, Prof. DEMİR said that any unilateral decision would be illegitimate. Prof. DEMİR: “We stand behind our signature and insist that a unilateral decision would be illegitimate. There is an approach here like ‘I did it and it was done’. We have always said that we are a partner who fulfills all the obligations related to this program and we would like to remain in this program. Our companies have been continuing their production activities as if we didn’t hear of those who said, many months ago that they have taken this decision and would block the supplying activities. At that time, when we heard this, if we would have pushed the companies to stop production, the entire program would have confronted many problems. We haven’t taken any negative steps against production in order to demonstrate Turkey's positive approach and good faith.”

Answering a question on the deployment of F-35B STOVL aircraft on the TCG Anadolu Multipurpose Amphibious Assault Ship (LHD) and whether there are any alternatives, Prof. DEMİR said, “We have never received an official request for the deployment of F-35B aircraft on this ship. This idea might have been discussed within the Navy General Staff in-house but it wasn’t something that they contacted us with as an official request. There is a wide variety of aerial platforms that you can deploy on the flight deck.  At the moment  there may not be a problem with deploying UAV systems having various capabilities. There are so many alternatives instead of going to an expensive alternative like the F-35B, it is possible to utilize Unmanned Systems that can perform missions to a certain degree, there will be some initiatives in this regard in due time.”  

Answering the question on the latest status of negotiations regarding Turkey’s procurement of the SU-35 from Russia, Prof. DEMİR said, “Russia has made an offer to us. We discussed this offer and we continue to negotiate. It needs to be discussed from a broad perspective. If you ask whether there has been a positive development regarding this offer, I say no.”

Clarifying the issue on SSIK’s no decision on the serial production of 3 ships within the scope of the I-Class frigate project; Prof. DEMİR said the decision will be taken at SSIK meetings to be held in the coming period, but it is not possible to give an exact date of the meeting for the time being. Prof. DEMİR: “As it is known, the construction for the first ship of the I-Class has been initiated. The decision for the construction of other ships could also have been determined. However, the end-user decided to initiate the activities for the first ship because there may be some additional systems input for the other ships. When they are finalized, the Defence Industry Executive Board decision will be taken. However, it is difficult to declare an exact date for now.” 

Prof. İsmail DEMİR: “France's recent stance has also affected the SAMP/T program.”

Stating that they signed an agreement with EUROSAM about the SAMP/T program for system definition studies in the previous year, Prof. DEMİR said, “Such definition studies are almost finalized. After such studies, a tangible long-term activity catering to the requirements of the defined parties would be launched. But France has adopted a particular attitude in the last period and this approach has also affected this project adversely. If this attitude persists, we may keep going with the other partner (Italy). The blockage here isn't only related with us. France's negative attitude following the finalization of this definition process unfortunately lead to difficulties in progressing to the next stages of the program.”

Prof. DEMİR: “In Pakistan the T129 ATAK Program, the Pakistani side has consented to give an additional 1-year period.”

Providing information on the Pakistan T129 ATAK Helicopter Program, the contract of which was signed in 2018 but no progress has been achieved regarding the export license of the engine to be procured from the U.S., Prof. DEMİR said, “The procedures of export license application for the engine are in progress. Pakistan has agreed to grant an additional one-year period regarding the export license. We're on standby. Could there be a solution of an alternative engine? We continue our efforts with the claim to meet this requirement with a unique engine (national engine development program). Could there be a quicker solution? Turkish Aerospace continues its negotiations on this issue. Export license is an issue that also concerns Pakistan as well as the U.S., and the Pakistani side continues to negotiate with all parties. We anticipate achieving a positive result. However, if no positive result is accomplished in one year and Pakistan sees the point that we reach in the development of the unique engine (TS1400) and if the all parties are willing to face all of the challenges and compromise over the unique solution, the national engine can be replace the existing engine. There are quality, test and certification processes in the development projects in respect to the schedule. Those processes can take much longer than expected for air platforms. The core engine was ignited .We're talking about an aggressive two-year schedule. Even when the engine is ready, there are certain extensions in the test and qualification processes. Since it is an air platform, we should not take risks. When setting the two-year schedule, we have always said that the issues that may arise in such a process should be severely scrutinized. In this respect, we can conclude that the next two-year process is a process in which all requirements and conditions need to be fulfilled.”

Prof.DEMİR emphasized the need to attend to value-added areas for the sustainability of the Defence Industry and said that they are trying to closely comprehend the capabilities of the sector by visiting various cities. “Since the Defence Industry became popular, various investors and industrialists have become much more interested in this sector. There is a certain level of maturity in some regions of Turkey. We come together with the Organized Industrial Zones, Chambers of Industry and related institutions in these cities and we have the opportunity talk face to face on the competencies of such cities and how such competencies are developed. We take along our main contractor companies on such visits. We emphasize the necessity of added value to the industrialists; for example, if a company says they’re good at metal cutting, we tell them that we have a large number of companies in this regard and that a saturation point has been reached. The added value achieved by the metal processing machines that we bring from abroad decreases, if the material also comes from abroad. So, let's rely on value-added areas. We don't underestimate the counter/machine. We see that there is has been a cutback in the world in the area of sophisticated machines capable of precision machining. In order to avoid obstacles in this regard, we also emphasize that we need to have the infrastructure and capabilities of production systems in Turkey. We believe there should be activities focusing on technology and niche areas. Companies and organizations in these cities say that if there is a request for them to complete activities that contain technological depth, then they will need close cooperation for niche areas, and they want us to coach them on these niche areas. With this approach, we will be able to communicate with these structures more easily by establishing clusters in cities and we consider that this will be beneficial. The establishment of the HUB Aerospace Zone continues in the Ankara Kazan region. We consider Turkish Aerospace to be an important driving force in aerospace in this region, and we will create an eco-system in this region, we will establish a Technopark, and we will establish a center of excellence in manufacturing technologies.  Efforts in the field of manufacturing technologies must be exerted very scientifically and we should not fall behind in this important field and Ankara will be a pilot region in this context.”

Following the Q&A session, the meeting ended with a photography session.

In light of the information shared by the SSB, our editor İbrahim SÜNNETÇİ prepared a comprehensive article for  our readers entitled “How was the sector's export performance in 2019? Which platforms, systems and subsystems were delivered in 2019? What progress was achieved in R&D projects and system test processes? What awaits the Turkish Defence Industry in 2020?” Please be sure to check it out in the following pages of this magazine