HAVELSAN General Manager Dr. Mehmet Akif NACAR Held a Meet & Greet with Defense Industry Journalists

Appointed as the General Manager of HAVELSAN, Dr. Mehmet Akif NACAR held a meet & greet meeting with members of the press from the defense sector on August 21, 2020. Dr. NACAR shared noteworthy remarks on HAVELSAN’s vision of the future, its targets and ongoing defense industry projects.

Issue 101

Dr. NACAR underlined that HAVELSAN has been conducting its activities primarily in the area of software for the defense industry and commented on HAVELSAN’s involvement in the National Combat Aircraft (MMU/T-FX) program in light of the experience gained through pilot training simulators that were delivered as part of the Atak project. NACAR said, “HAVELSAN has significant knowhow in the field of simulators, nearly 25 years. So, in order to avoid being limited to simulation we started our journey in 2018-2019 by extending our product range and to channel our seasoned experience to various areas. With our colleagues, we decided to be involved in the National Combat Aircraft Program. We planned to further improve the software used in operational environment tests that we had developed in the simulator and to launch it into service by elevating it to the level of its foreign equivalents. To achieve this plan, we have been negotiating both with the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) and with Turkish Aerospace (TUSAŞ).”

Touching upon HAVELSAN’s activities on Unmanned Autonomous Systems, Dr. NACAR said, “Unmanned Systems is another popular area and HAVELSAN has a certain infrastructure and background in this field. We launched our activities in autonomous systems based on the auto-pilot approach we employed in the simulators. As you know, Autonomous Systems is not a new area in the defense industry, there are various companies active in this domain. Some companies are executing projects on UAVs, there are Kamikazes, and we have certain companies working on swarm technologies. We thought of ways to conduct more advanced activities without contradicting with the road maps of such companies and decided to work on swarm algorithms. We focused not only on autonomy but also on swarm intelligence systems and carried out activities to enable their action as a swarm.” 

Noting that HAVELSAN had displayed an unmanned ground vehicle during the previous year’s IDEF’ 19, NACAR added, “We developed an autonomous version of our unmanned ground vehicle which we demonstrated previously at IDEF. That version was not autonomous, it was remote controlled. We developed an unmanned version of that vehicle with the last tests; it is capable of following a route by itself and it is able to operate a specific task. This is an R&D project. So, it has a schedule and timeline to keep up with. In other words, this cannot take place all of a sudden. Immediately implementing the algorithms, going to the field, launching serial production and rapidly including it in the inventory is not possible. Instead, there is a process and it continues. Hopefully, we will get everything completed by the end of this year. We are at a point where we can support this process with various projects and launch the project to the service of relevant units and institutions. This project is continuing smoothly.”

Mentioning the Real-Time Operating System Cooperation Protocol signed by TÜBİTAK BİLGEM and HAVELSAN, General Manager Dr. Mehmet Akif NACAR continued, “This is a system developed by TÜBİTAK. Actually, it has been developed as an R&D project since 2006 and various institutions gradually started to utilize it. However, HAVELSAN would be more flexible than TÜBİTAK in the marketing, expansion and productization of the system. Therefore, there has been a win-win situation here; both TÜBİTAK and through technology transfer, HAVELSAN has won as well. Our efforts to this end were eventually finalized with the signing of a protocol at a meeting attended by the President of the Republic. Still, we have challenging assignments ahead as we have assumed a serious obligation.” 

NACAR informed press members on the National Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Project conducted by HAVELSAN previously under the title KOVAN and said, “We are aware that many public institutions and private sector companies require this software that started to be developed in the area of Enterprise Resource Planning. We know that SMEs are particularly in significant need of this. This is a platform that contains all the modules such as the stock, fixed assets, finance and payroll. It addresses defense companies of all scales and could be transferred to the cloud environment.  We plan to launch the initial installations in 2021 and then conduct the go-live processes; this truly is one of the projects that will honor HAVELSAN.” 

Stating that Air Forces Information System Project, which began development in the 1990s, is one of the most prominent projects that has made HAVELSAN such a successful company, NACAR added that the project’s development process continued in accordance with current demands and that they launched the design of a similar project for the Naval Forces Command as well. NACAR: “The ORSA Project, developed mostly by our Command Control and Defense Technologies Department, is one of our other projects. ORSA is similar to one of HAVELSAN’s most substantial projects, the Air Forces Information System Project. Next-generation technologies and all cloud technologies ranging from Big Data to artificial intelligence are being employed by the ORSA project which will be developed to fulfill the requests of the Naval Forces. We have made progress in this area as well. This project currently is in the design stage and is a program that will broaden the horizons of both HAVELSAN and the sector. Additionally, we have the Combat Management System project which is employed in our MiLGEM vessels. The previous title of the project was GENESIS and its existing title is ADVENT. We will be fulfilling our mission as soon as we complete these projects and export the systems.”  

NACAR touched on how HAVELSAN has been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic and said, “We were affected as much as any other company. Then again, since there is a civilian dimension of the projects we work on, they enable remote working. Therefore, we let our employees work from home as much as possible and to the extent where software development did not require any processes in a laboratory, a production hangar, or hall. Surely there has been a reduction in the workforce, no need to deny this. Yet, we strived to keep this at a minimum level. We did not lose any projects due to the pandemic but some of our activities and programs have been delayed. There have been certain projects that we have not been able to negotiate or sign due to force majeure in addition to the natural delays in ongoing projects. Still, they are not major postponements that could not be tolerated.” 

NACAR commented on HAVELSAN’s entry into the Top 100 list of global defense companies published by Defense News Magazine this year and on Turkey’s representation in the list with 7 companies for the first time and added, “Managing to be included on the list in the upcoming years is crucial. We wish to reach higher levels gradually by increasing our targets and turnover. I would also like to congratulate the other 6 companies on the list as well.  We are fully aware of the contributions of the Defense Industry Executive Committee, Presidency of Defense Industries, Ministry of National Defense, Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish Armed Forces Foundation that adopt critical decisions for our defense industry under the leadership of the President of the Republic and hereby we would like to extend them our gratitude.” 

In the second session of the meeting, HAVELSAN General Manager Dr. Mehmet Akif NACAR answered press member questions regarding developments in the defense industry. 

In response to a question on the attitude of young people towards the defense industry and HAVELSAN’s visionary activities to this end, NACAR said that they launched an online internship program in the beginning of summer in order to meet their demands. NACAR: “This is a remote internship program. We identified mentors and study areas through internal structuring. While we used to employ around 100 interns previously, this year we accepted 600 students as interns. We grouped them into two terms; one for July and the other for August. Most of the time they are working online and they are on site at the office for one or two days, depending on the project they are working on or the department. We implemented an internship project which is mostly based on telecommuting. Assignments are given to the students during these internship programs, and they are able to meet with executives through a video conference program ‘the diyalog’ and exchange their ideas and assess cases. The intern groups are capable of interacting and working through this environment as well. We offered this opportunity to 600 students, but some of the universities could not attend the program as their directives on online internship were not available, as their programs had been set up for the intern to physically be present at the office. Giving this chance to nearly 450-500 students is a prominent step for our youth.” 

NACAR mentioned HAVELSAN’s target markets and technologies, as well as the technologies in which the company has an advantage abroad and touched on activities that they are actively being executed in Middle East countries; Oman, Qatar, Kuwait; Indonesia, Malaysia in Southeast Asia and Bangladesh and the newly launched activities in the African region. “Franco Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and North Africa are the actual regions, the Balkans and Central Asia are the target markets in the nearby geography, but the countries of these regions employ the systems of the Eastern Block instead of western systems. This is a challenge, but as long as they have systems of western origin, we are willing to collaborate with these countries as our systems comply with theirs, and we have plans to this end.” 

NACAR: “We expect to be in the market by the end of 2021 with our ERP Enterprise Resource Planning Software.” 

Upon the comment suggesting that the small-scaled companies in Turkey were not quite familiar with ERP software, NACAR clarified the formation of the ecosystem in the area of ERP software and stated that they planned to internally develop this core technology firstly and then upon the completion of the R&D processes they aimed to offer these services as an open source and intend to integrate the modules into this eventually. “First of all, this is not a brand-new area, there are companies that have been working in this field for years, already certain institutions have invested in this area, so it is not easy to remove all that has been done prior. Therefore, we had to take a different approach, and that is the open-source method. We plan to initially develop the core technology and complete the R&D processes, then make it available to the open-source community, offer these services through open source and then integrate them with the modules; this is our road map. Since we decided to go along with the open-source method, most of the technologies in the background, I do not wish to say all of them, may be unlicensed. As you see, the price advantage, the economic advantage at this point where we are dealing mostly with open source is license fees. Again, as it is a domestic product, we believe that the maintenance and on-site support services would be faster and more efficient, leading the customers’ preferences. We also believe that its availability of being transferred to the cloud and providing such services via the cloud would be advantageous for the SMEs. In short, our prototype products will be revealed after the second half of 2021. Surely, as they are prototypes, they will be installed at certain institutions. We presume that we will be launching it to the market hopefully by the end of 2021, after we’ve tried and tested it.” 

NACAR underlined that working from home during the pandemic highlighted the crucial importance of cybersecurity.  He informed press members on the advantages that HAVELSAN provides in terms of activities in cybersecurity for users during this time and on their future projects in the field of cybersecurity. “In fact, our activities on cybersecurity are on their regular course. As part of HAVELSAN’s SİSATEM, cybersecurity services are provided by the Cyber Security Center to certain contracted organizations, activities for the strengthening of these organizations against cyber-attacks are being executed at the center and monitoring and reporting processes are being conducted. I can say that there have not been major changes during the pandemic process. We started to work on the maturity level of the projects we carry out in the cybersecurity area with organizations, with the institutions that collaborate and work with us. We have been conducting activities which we may refer to as a certification regarding cyber maturity levels. Other than that, we have various tasks as part of the cybersecurity cluster; this is a newly established cluster. Approximately 100-150 SME companies are active in this cluster. As major companies in the sector, our company and our other sister companies are striving to lead them. The National Combat Aircraft Project is also important in respect to the future of cybersecurity. We are working on the cybersecurity of platforms in this scope as we believe that it is a critical area, especially for the defense industry. As you know, cybersecurity is not only IT’s cybersecurity, and it does not only involve IT tools, the wireless radio you use also has to have cybersecurity. You need to consider the cybersecurity of the laser or another sub-system you utilize. In the upcoming period, we plan to launch new projects that will make a difference defense industry and in this domain.” 

NACAR: “5G Project Schedule has been delayed to March due to the pandemic.”

NACAR responded to a question on the end-to-end indigenous and national 5G project that has been on the agenda for nearly 3 years and underlining HAVELSAN’s highly influential role in this project, he touched on the advantages to be brought to Turkey by 5G. NACAR: “First of all, this project has been affected adversely by the pandemic process. Normally, the project was supposed to be completed by the end of the year, the project schedule has been delayed to March due to the pandemic. In fact, HAVELSAN is not a company active in the communication sector, we are mostly involved in the software sector yet nowadays communication, technology and IT are getting closer. So, to speak, today Apple is founding a bank or operating money transfers. Toyota is launching a technology base. Thus, all these technologies are drawing closer to each other. 5G means software-based networks, and software-based GSM means data transfer. When we speak of software-based networks, the dependence on hardware is eliminated, and this results in the removal of brand dependency. Software that is launched and generated with open source, for instance, switchboard software, cell tower software, software that enables the links in between, these are all software that function here, and they are heading towards becoming cloud based. Therefore, technologies that stand out in this stage such as OpenStack and Kubernetes are being utilized in the software of these core stations. HAVELSAN, due to its infrastructure, seized the opportunity to take part in such projects and this is not merely the overall telecommunications infrastructure supported by the operators, a special virtual private network is an area involving private networks.  This was not possible in the past, there is a subject titled network slicing, a specific network can be built over any telecommunications network. What for? For instance, one can build such a network in the emergence of a natural disaster. Or, for example, one can separate the 112 call center related to fire disasters from the main body when a natural disaster occurs. By using this software in such institutional areas, HAVELSAN aims to extend the utilization of mission-critical systems in the defense industry and security domains without interfering too much in the areas employed by Telecom operators.” 

HAVELSAN ranked 99th on the Defense Top 100 list, based just on defense revenues in 2020. Upon a statement underlining that in the breakdown of HAVELSAN’s revenues, nearly 86% was based on defense industry revenues and the remaining 14% was collected through projects in the civil sector which suggests that during the pandemic process the expenses in the defense industry decreased as importance was placed on the area of healthcare, replacing the prominence of the defense industry, HAVELSAN General Manager NACAR stated the following remarks on the steps they will be taking towards increasing their revenues in the defense industry in this period. “Hopefully, HAVELSAN’s turnover will increase, the percentage of projects executed in the civil sector will increase as well and eventually we will rise up in the ranking. In this way, we will be working in the defense industry and for the civil sector as well. HAVELSAN has previously accomplished many R&D projects in AR and VR technologies; so in fact, our company is already active in these sectors. Moreover, regarding health technologies, various POC projects have been accomplished, R&D projects are in progress in the areas of  telemedicine and remote patient care. These are in fact intersecting technologies and we work on them provided that we do not lose our main focus. In brief, the technologies used in the infrastructure, for instance, the technologies used in simulators are compliant with the technologies employed in maintenance. Within the scope of the health sector, for example, health software and simulators are fully compatible with flight simulators; this compliance is a scientific reality. The potential spin-off projects at this point may extend our activity range in the health sector. However, since our actual focal point is not the health sector, we may sustain such products merely to a certain point.  So, after that point, issues such as product transfer or differentiation through spin-off may arise regarding these technologies, because there are more experienced and skilled, competent companies in the health sector. We may support them by providing health technologies. Then again, as a field, expertise in health is not our domain. As with our competence and expertise in defense, there are other competencies in health. Therefore, we believe that we can conduct technology transfer to gain artificial intelligence, AR, VR and Big Data that we develop in our company to the health sector and contribute to the products of the SMEs by collaborating with them on product development.” 

NACAR informed the press about HAVELSAN’s investment in the Silicon Valley - Quantum3D. “The company Quantum3D is an investment that we made nearly five years ago. It was made as a software investment in the simulator field in Silicon Valley. Surely after the Quantum3D acquisition, various projects were conducted in Silicon Valley, and models have been tested. In other words, we tested if the existing HAVELSAN products could be sold in the U.S. market or in markets under the influence of the U.S. through the company Quantum3D. Business development activities were conducted to this end.  Also, regarding simulators, we worked on ways to cooperate more with U.S. companies by having a physical presence in America. A project was executed in Canada within this scope. Also, we took part in a simulator project in Saudi Arabia. In this respect, especially the adaptation of Quantum3D to new technologies gains importance. There is a tendency towards AR and VR in simulators, particularly in-flight simulators and we have already been developing the main technology at HAVELSAN We regard Quantum3D as a complementary project; it is a gateway where we conduct technology transfer and where we collaborate with the technologies and companies from the U.S. More than half of the projects in this area are provided and conducted by the U.S. Therefore, the capacity to conduct business in that region started to gain ground, and it will increasingly continue in the upcoming period, too. In short, the Quantum3D project is in progress and it continues to be an area where our parachute simulator and other simulator projects, AR and VR technologies, in particular, are marketed.” 

NACAR mentioned the protocol signed with the Directorate General of Coastal Security and stated that this protocol has in fact been the transformation of an ongoing project into a strategic cooperation. “As you know, the Coastal Surveillance Radar System Project has been developed by HAVELSAN for many years, and now the Project is about to be completed. This was in fact a software information system project in the sense of controlling the passage from the straits to which we refer as VTS (Vessel Traffic Systems) with Coastal Security. A protocol was signed for the following phases of this project. Other than that, hereby, I would like to declare that we will have new collaborations in training and in terms of simulators.” 

Finally, on the MiLDEN (National Submarine) Project, NACAR stated that the first staff were assigned in 2019 and the project became effective at that time. Specific to MiLDEN, NACAR expressed the following on the assignments HAVELSAN strives toward: “Of course, HAVELSAN wishes to assume many tasks in this project, the engineering simulator is on top of all others. Certainly, there are things to be done in the project in terms of command control. Particularly, HAVELSAN took part in previous projects on submarine modernization and it is taking part in the new type submarine project. If we take all these into account, HAVELSAN indeed has a lot to do in this project.”

Following the Q&A session, a group photo was taken in front of HAVELSAN premises