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Interview

Exports on the Rise as CES Advanced Composites & Defence Technologies Maintain Steady Reach into Global Markets

General Manager of CES Advanced Composites & Defence Technologies Selçuk ŞENTÜRK discusses the company’s vision of being a reliable and innovative solution partner, making it sustainable, while producing environmentally friendly, innovative, high-tech solutions designed to protect human life.

Issue 109

Defence Turkey: Mr. ŞENTÜRK, thank you once again for hosting us at your facilities. What can you say about the current infrastructure, manufacturing capacity, and technologies used in the production facilities of CES Advanced Composites and Defence Technologies, as well as the R&D infrastructure? 

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: CES Advanced Composites and Defence Technologies design, manufacture, and integrate advanced composite parts and composite ballistic armor for defense and aerospace applications. Our company, which has the necessary infrastructure, capabilities, and know-how for advanced technology composite design and production, continues its activities with four production facilities in Ankara (2), Izmir, and the United Kingdom. Working with the vision of being a reliable and innovative solution partner and making it sustainable, CES is committed to producing environmentally friendly, innovative, high-tech solutions that protect human life. CES Advanced Composite, also an R&D Center since 2017, offers fast and reliable solutions at international/high standards according to the needs of its customers by combining innovative and creative designs with the latest technologies. We continue our activities in our main factory built on 17,000 m2 in Temelli, Ankara, which is registered as an accredited R&D center by the Ministry of Industry and Technology. We maintain our pioneering identity in the sectors we operate in, with our young and dynamic employees who believe in research, development, and innovation, and our entrepreneurial and innovative aspects that do not take a break from machinery/equipment/factory investments. As CES UK, we established the R&D and Prototype Center in the UK. Currently, we have five R&D projects in progress.

Defence Turkey: Can you evaluate your performance in 2020 and the first half of this year? What are your goals and expectations for the end of 2021 and beyond?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: 2020 was very productive for us; if we look at our growth figures, our total sales increased by 68% in 2020 compared to the previous year. We achieved a rapid acceleration, and our exports increased by 153%. We foresee that our domestic and international growth will continue stably in 2022. There were other good developments in 2020 as well. We have completed our new factory in Anadolu OIZ (Organized Industrial Zone), the construction of which started in 2018. Another good development is that we activated our ballistic test laboratory in this facility and started to meet demands in area. We have been working on ballistic composite solutions for different platforms and needs for many years. We put our solutions through numerous ballistic tests, especially during the development phase. If we consider the tests such as qualification, sample, and batch tests for our customers, we perform thousands of tests every year. At this point, we decided to establish our own ballistics test center, and as of the beginning of 2020, we completed the infrastructure that can meet our needs in our own test center. The first stage of our ballistic test center has just been completed, and we can perform STANAG 4569 Level I-VI tests there. With the final stage of our facility, which we aim to complete in 2022, we will be able to conduct system tests of tanks and armored vehicles up to 60 tons in closed environments. With this feature, our facility will become the only test center in Turkey and one of two test centers in Europe. 

Defence Turkey: With the vision of continuous motion and progress you are rapidly executing R&D investments. During this visit, we saw that you have also activated your creative design office which has become a laboratory equipped with additive manufacturing technologies. What are your expectations in this field? 

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: As you know, successful global companies stand out with their innovative solutions and original designs. Today, it is not enough for a product to just meet the requirements expected; besides, additional features such as design, ease of use, and comfort that make up the user experience are also considered. As CES, we aim to make a difference in this regard and stand out with innovative products that will set trends not only in our country but also globally. Our design office is still very young, but it has already excited us with various new ideas. We will continue to grow by strengthening our technical infrastructure and personnel here. 

Defence Turkey: Returning to the topic of your current projects, what can you say about the recent studies and activities you have carried out in the field of Ballistic Protection and Defense as CES Composites? Have there been any new deliveries within the framework of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) requirements, especially for personal/personnel protection?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: We continue to expand our solution portfolio in the field of personal protection. In this context, our regular deliveries to the TAF and Police Forces continue. Our fundamental approach in this field is based on constantly improving our solutions; thus, we continue our R&D studies nonstop. As a result, we have developed new ballistic helmets and plates that offer much higher protection than standard solutions but are significantly lighter in weight. We are planning to introduce these solutions to users for the first time at the IDEF fair. 

Defence Turkey: Could you touch on your capabilities, especially in composites, and your current work in the field of aviation?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: Accelerating its activities in aviation thanks to the AS9100 aviation certification received in 2013, CES crowned its success here by starting production as the approved supplier of Airbus Helicopters Germany in 2015. Today, CES continues production for the Sikorsky T70 project, Indigenous Utility Helicopter (GÖKBEY) program, and the A400M project with Airbus Military, in which Turkey is a partner. The company has become a strong partner of many companies such as Goodrich, Kale Aero, Turkish Cabin Interiors (TCI), TÜBİTAK Space in aerospace projects. We have a significant technical infrastructure for the production, secondary processes, and assembly of composite parts used in aviation. In addition, we have the financial capacity to invest in machinery, equipment, and technical personnel to take part in different projects. Although the aviation industry has entered a difficult period recently, it continues to maintain its strategic importance for us and remains one of our focus areas. 

Defence Turkey: On the vehicle protection side, what can you tell us about the products you have delivered at home and abroad? Could you please inform our readers about your ongoing projects? 

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: Our company is also the main solution partner for defense companies such as OTOKAR, FNSS, BMC, Roketsan, Aselsan, TÜBİTAK Sage, TÜBİTAK Bilgem within the scope of advanced composite material design, production, qualification, and integration activities. In addition, we have started to stand out in ballistic products with our brand since 2016. Today, we are the leading supplier of almost all land, sea, and air platforms produced in Turkey in ballistic protection solutions. Likewise, we manufacture composite armor with different protection levels for various important vehicle manufacturers, especially in the European market. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of our overseas team during the pandemic period, we started the mass production for several projects this year.

Defence Turkey: Could you briefly talk about the ongoing export activities for CES Advanced Composites & Defence Technologies? For example, what is your export share of total production, and can you tell us about the most important export markets for the company? What do your export figures look like for the first half of this year and what are your future target markets?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK:  If we look at the past, five years ago our exports were almost non-existent. Since 2018, our company started to export ballistic products with our brand focusing on the Western Europe Market. In the first quarter of 2020, the share of exports in our turnover exceeded 18%, and we expect it will continue to increase. Our export amount in the first six months of 2021 has tripled compared to the same period of the previous year.

Defence Turkey: How did your company fare in 2020, were there any revisions in your goals?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: CES Advanced Composite is a 100% domestic and national company that designs and produces composite solutions in Aviation, Defense, Ballistic Protection, and Automotive & Rail Systems. We are among the leading companies globally with our world-class personal protection and platform protection solutions with our quality, capability, experience, know-how, and manufacturing capacity. CES products are used in almost every Land, Air, and Sea platform produced in our country. Moreover, in the last two years, we have delivered and continue to deliver more than 50 thousand ballistic protective helmets and vests to our Armed Forces and Security Forces. As a leading company that contributes to reducing weight by designing and producing various non-structural composite parts used in armored vehicles, we take part in several domestic vehicle projects, including the Altay Main Battle Tank, with our advanced composite solutions. Apart from this, we are a reliable solution partner in various projects of our defense industry. With this sense of responsibility, I can say that we made an extraordinary effort as a team to continue our deliveries as planned without stopping our production line even for a day during the pandemic period. Thanks to the steps we have taken by foreseeing the disruptions in the supply chain and the serious measures we have taken against the infection throughout the factory, we continued to work uninterruptedly. In 2020, we experienced delays and cancellations in some projects due to the negative effects of COVID-19 and had to make some revisions to our targets. However, despite all the problems, I can say that we have achieved significant growth compared to the previous year. 

Defence Turkey: What can you tell our readers about your activities and goals for 2021?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: It was already clear that 2021 would largely resemble 2020 in terms of pandemic conditions. The fact that the COVID-19 continues by making new peaks, the emergence of new variants of the virus, and yet being far behind the desired levels in vaccination has told us that business life will not miraculously return to its former state in 2021. But this time, unlike last year, we were much more prepared for possible problems. We knew that travel restrictions would continue, organizations such as fairs would not be possible, that we would encounter supply problems from time to time, and possible disruptions in production, and we took the necessary measures against all these risks. After controlling the risks in this way, we focused all our energy on seizing opportunities. In 2020, we had to make up for the time we lost due to the pandemic. For this reason, we have made moves to expand our sales and marketing network, especially with a series of collaborations abroad. We made intensive preparations to participate in virtual fairs and B2B events. We accelerated the installation activities of our UK factory, which was disrupted due to the pandemic. We sought out new colleagues to expand our overseas sales and technical team. While we increased our business volume by strengthening our top position in the sector this year, we aimed to increase our exports by 2.5 - 3 times by increasing our coverage area abroad, which we have expanded significantly in the last three years.  

Defence Turkey: How did the COVID-19 Outbreak affect your domestic and international activities?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: We have felt the negative impact of the cancellation of international and domestic fairs and B2B organizations and the restriction of business travel, sometimes to the point of being banned, in business development activities. However, as a team, we quickly adapted to the new reality and tried to use digital platforms as effectively as possible. We have tried to overcome difficulties in reaching new customers by effectively using our domestic and international relationship network. In this regard, I have to say our overseas team, even in the most troubled times of the pandemic, managed to develop new works/projects and establish contact with very important customers by showing great effort. Hopefully, we will start to reap the fruits of these this year. Of course, the global and permanent effects of the pandemic will be much more extensive, but I can say that the defense industry is minimally affected by these negativities. 

Defence Turkey: Can you tell us about the fields that you focused on during the pandemic period?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: Our top priority during the pandemic was the health and safety of our employees. As an AÇIK Holding company, with the great support of our CEO Yüksel AÇIK, we said, 'human first,' and we did not victimize any of our colleagues during this difficult period. In return, our colleagues ensured that the deliveries were made on time in the best possible way. Since we took the measures to supply critical materials at the beginning of the pandemic, we did not have to make an extra effort in this regard. Apart from this, I can say that we have devoted all our energy to domestic and foreign business development and to evaluate opportunities, despite all the negativities of the process. 

Defence Turkey: What projects have been launched this year?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: During the pandemic period, we continued our investments without interruption. One of the most important results is the R&D and Manufacturing Center, which became operational this year in the UK. We have established an infrastructure to carry out small-scale serial production and develop innovative solutions. In this way, we aim to increase our business development capability across the UK and Europe and become one of the leading subcontractors in the long term. We also want to use our UK facility as a separate training and development opportunity for our young engineers. Another important issue we brought to life this year is our Design Office. We aim to crown our high technical capabilities, especially in personal protection products, with a world-class, original, and innovative design approach. For this reason, we intend to design the protective equipment of the future and set new trends with a young and dynamic industrial design team in our design studio, which we have specially established and separated from other processes in the factory. 

Defence Turkey: What are your evaluations and predictions for the Defense Industry sector?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: Our Defense Industry has grown significantly in the last ten years and gained important capabilities. While Turkish defense companies previously focused on reverse engineering, assembly, and simple component production, we now see that original and innovative solutions, critical subsystems, and systems are designed and manufactured. Furthermore, it is incredibly pleasing that these solutions are exported to the whole world, and foundation companies such as Aselsan and Havelsan, as well as several private companies, become competitive on a global scale. In parallel with the developments in the world, I believe that important breakthroughs will be made in electronic warfare and countermeasures, unmanned systems, wearable technologies, and advanced material technologies in our country.

Defence Turkey: Mr. ŞENTÜRK, is there anything else you would like to add as a message to our readers?

Selçuk ŞENTÜRK: We steadily improve our technology, capability, and manufacturing capacity to become an important actor not only in Turkey but also in the world market. We are working non-stop to ensure that our 100% domestic and national products will find the place they deserve in the foreign market