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MoND FY 2021 Budget Approved by the General Assembly of TGNA

The Ministry of National Defense`s (MoND) budget proposal for FY 2021, which was submitted to the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA), Planning and Budget Commission on November 12, 2020 at an amount of TRY 61 billion 484 million 939 thousand, was approved on December 9, 2020 by the General Assembly of the TGNA. The budget proposal, consisting of 3 Programs, namely National Defense and Security, Management and Support and Foreign Policy, 5 Sub-Programs, 17 Activities and 25 Sub-Activities, had previously been approved by the TGNA Plan and Budget Committee on November 27th.

Issue 104

The Ministry's budget for FY 2021 has increased by 14% (TRY 7 Billion 625 Million 597 Thousand) compared to 2020 (even though it is close to the annual inflation rate, since the TRY depreciated by approximately 30% against the US$ in 2020, there is a decrease rather than an increase in US$). The amount allocated for direct investment (Capital Expenditures) in the budget is TRY 226 Million 612 Thousand, for Current Transfers TRY 861 Million 287 Thousand, for Purchase of Goods and Services TRY 20 Billion 982 Million 973 Thousand, and for Personnel Expenses TRY 34 Billion 195 Million 104 Thousand, with Social Security Premium Expenses (TRY 5 Billion 218 billion 963 Thousand). The proportion of the MoND Budget in the General Budget shows a steady decline over the years. The ratio of the MoND Budget in the General Budget was 6.9% in 2003 and 5.2% in 2012, but it fell to 4.9% in 2019 and 2020. The ratio of the 2021 Ministry of National Defense Budget in the 2021 Central Administration Budget is 4.5%. The share allocated to the MoND Budget ranks 5th among other Ministries’ budgets.

Nearly TRY 148.7 Billion in total has been allocated in the FY 2021 Central Administration Budget for the Ministry of Interior (TRY 10.665 Billion), National Intelligence Organization (TRY 2 Billion 628 Million 749 Thousand), Turkish National Police (TRY 44 Billion 555 Million 427 Thousand), Gendarmerie General Command (TRY 27 Billion 666 Million 860 Thousand), Coast Guard Command (nearly TRY 1.471 Billion), Presidency of Defense Industries (nearly TRY 120.1 Million), Secretariat General of the National Security Council (nearly TRY 38.1 Million) and the Ministry of National Defense (TRY 61 Billion 484 Million and 939 Thousand). As a result, Turkey's Defense and Security Budget planned for 2021 will be TRY 148.7 billion. This figure was around TRY 129 Billion in 2019. The ratio of the Defense and Security Budget in the 2021 Central Administration Budget was calculated as 17%.

In the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan covering the years 2021-2023, which was approved by the President and published in the Official Gazette dated November 8 2020, the US$ to TRY exchange rate for 2021 was forecasted as TRY 7.6719. Turkey's 2021 MoND Budget over this exchange rate is calculated nearly as US$ 8 Billion and the Defense and Security Budget as US$ 19.3 Billion. Based on the TRY/US$ exchange rate of the Republic of Turkey Central Bank on December 9, 2020, which was TRY 7.8203, the MoND Budget for FY 2021 is US$ 7862 Billion and the Defense and Security Budget is US$ 19.1 Billion.

Meanwhile, the 2021 budget of the Greek Ministry of Defense is projected to be Euro 2.5 Billion (US $ 2.95 Billion), with a notable increase despite planning a cut of Euro 4.6 Billion (US $ 5.42 Billion) in the General Budget. According to the 2021 General Budget approved by the Greek Parliament on December 15, 2020 (158 MP said yes and 148 MP said no), the total defense expenditure of Greece reached the level of Euro 5.4 Billion (US $ 6.5 Billion) with an increase of more than 3/1. Greece, whose economy is expected to shrink by 10.5% in 2020 (4.8% growth projected for 2021), announced a comprehensive Armed Forces Modernization Package Worth €11.5 Billion (US $ 14.5 Billion) in 2020 to increase its defense capabilities.

Remarks from Minister AKAR's Speech at the Turkish Grand National Assembly

Minister of National Defense Hulusi AKAR shared significant information in his speech during the 2021 Central Administration Budget Law Proposal negotiations at the General Assembly of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) on December 9, 2020. In his speech, Minister AKAR noted that there are almost 3,000 TAF personnel in Turkey's NATO mission, operations and headquarters, a total of 15,900 students, including 1,007 guest students, (on November 12, 2020, this figure was given as 17,637) who are currently studying at the University of MoND and that the engines were supplied for FIRTINA-II Self-Propelled (S/P) Howitzers and that once the installation is started, there will be a serial production effort. AKAR also stated that 3 FIRTINA S/P Howitzers will be delivered in January 2021.

In his speech, Minister AKAR also touched upon the transfer of operating rights of the 1st Main Maintenance Factory Directorate to BMC Company for 25 years. The Factory, based in Arifiye/Adapazarı, previously produced a total of 281 T-155 FIRTINA S/PM Howitzers in 2004-2014 and completed the deliveries to the Turkish Land Forces Command in 2015. AKAR stated that the value of the Factory, which was established in 1973 to produce pallets for tanks, is approximately US$ 250 million. AKAR shared the following information: “With the Presidential Decree in May 2019, only the operating rights were transferred to BMC Company for 25 years, provided that the ownership and control of the Factory as well as 116 personnel remain in the Ministry of National Defense. With the investment in talent acquisition and development, the military personnel in the factory will be transferred to other units, and maintenance, repair and production activities will continue without any loss of employee personal rights. 146,764 items of maintenance, repair and manufacturing activities were carried out in 2020, this figure was planned to be 423,394 in 2021 (AKAR did not mention the underlying reason of almost threefold increase). In addition, 3 FIRTINA Howitzers will be delivered in January 2021. 4 claims were filed against this transfer and they were all rejected. In the appeal, the transfer process has been finalized with the decision of the Plenary Session of Administrative Law Divisions. Therefore, Arifiye will continue to meet the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces in the future as in the past, with its modernized structure.”

Minister AKAR gave the following answer to the criticism of Engin ÖZKOÇ, CHP Group Deputy Chairman: “The addressee is BMC Savunma Ticaret A.Ş. and all of the Board Members of this company are Turkish. There is no Qatari here. But it has a parent company. 49% of BMC Automotive belongs to Qataris. There is a transfer of operating right to BMC Savunma A.Ş., whose board members are all Turkish, according to the conditions we mentioned. In this context, neither Qatari civilians nor soldiers have come there, nor have any Qataris ever been there. There are no military personnel left in factory management.” AKAR told ÖZKOÇ that the benches in the factory are 31-34 years old and that they cannot be operated without being renewed, and said he is ready to discuss the value appraised for the factory.

Another point that draws attention in the speech of Minister AKAR is the information that a total of 20,610 personnel were discharged from the TAF as of July 15, 2016 due to the FETÖ terrorist organization and 436,476 personnel have been working within the Ministry of National Defense as of December 9, 2020. AKAR previously made a speech at the TGNA Plan and Budget Commission on November 12, 2020 and said the total number of personnel discharged from the TAF due to FETÖ terrorist organization connection was 20,571, and the total number of MoND personnel was 487,368; 448,901 of which were military personnel and 38,467 were civilian personnel as of November 12, 2020. In October 2020, AKAR announced that after July 15, 2016, nearly 103,000 personnel were recruited, including active-duty Officers, Sergeants, Specialized Sergeants and Contracted Soldiers.

In view of the information above, there is a difference of 51,368 in terms of the number of personnel within the TAF and MoND between November 12 and December 5, 2020. Since the General Command of Gendarmerie and Coast Guard Command were affiliated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs with the Decree No. 668 dated July 25, 2016, after the coup attempt of July 15th, the number of General Command of Gendarmerie and Coast Guard Command personnel is not included in the figure above. In the 2020 budget presentation prepared by the Ministry of Interior, the number of personnel of the General Command of Gendarmerie was 176,282 and the number of Coast Guard Command personnel was 6,422 as of November 2019.

Minister AKAR announced on July 25, 2019 that 17,505 personnel had been discharged since July 15, 2016. In its speech at the Plan and Budget Commission on November 21, 2019, AKAR listed the total of 17,866 discharged personnel as 150 Generals/Admirals, 8,413 Officers, 7,612 Sergeants, 1,232 Specialized Sergeants/Contracted Soldiers and 459 civil servants/workers.

In his response to the parliamentary question of CHP Parliament Member Sezgin TANRIKULU in February 2019, Minister AKAR stated that a total of 476,836 personnel were in charge in the TAF and the Ministry of National Defense as of November 2018 and indicated that the actual norm staffing rate is approximately 65%. The number of personnel under the Ministry of National Defense was given as 401,999; 362,284 of which were military personnel and 38,915 were civil servants/workers in February 2017. In February 2016, the total number of personnel was 633,056; 580,662 of which were soldiers and 52,394 were civil servants/workers. On July 1, 2016, the number of military personnel under the Land, Naval and Air Force Commands, Gendarmerie General Command and Coast Guard Command was declared as 570,111. According to the data of the General Staff, a total of 400,784 personnel, 361,384 of which were military personnel and 39,400 were civil servants/workers within the Land, Naval and Air Force Commands, as of December 1, 2016.

Overview of FIRTINA-II S/P Howitzer Projects

The ‘1010th Track Laying Vehicle and Track Modernization Factory’ was launched to service on May 23, 1973 for the modernization of the armored vehicles, tanks, tracks, engines and relevant mechanisms within the inventory of the Turkish Land Forces Command. The facility was renamed in 1981 as the ‘1010th Ordnance Main Depot Factory Directorate’, then on July 1, 2003, it was once again retitled as the ‘1st Main Maintenance Center Command (1ABMK). Finally, it was named as the ‘1st Ordnance Main Maintenance Factory Directorate’ since 2017 (in February 2017, 27 military factories across the country within the body of the MoND were attached to the Military Factories Directorate General [AFGM]). The surrounding of the Factory is 8.5 km and out of the total area of 1,814,000 m2, 137.000m2 is used as an indoor space and 200,000 m2 is used as an open-air depot space.

In recent years, in addition to the manufacturing of 281 FIRTINA Howitzers (the manufacturing cost of each was claimed to be US$ 4.2 Million) and 71 POYRAZ Ammunition Resupply Vehicles, the 1st Main Maintenance Factory Directorate accomplished the modernization of 171 Leopard 1T Main Battle Tanks (MBT) in cooperation with Aselsan (the final tank was delivered in 2009), renovation of the engines, transmission, final drive and secondary assembly equipment of  armored vehicles, design, manufacturing and modernization of classical optical systems (optical manufacturing is being conducted through the utilization of Nano-technology at the Factory with an integrated optical facility), design, production and renovation of the tracks used in track laying vehicles and manufacturing of the spare parts required by the Land Forces Command. Therefore, it has a workload that is beyond the mere definition of a “Tank Track Factory” as well as a financial and strategic value of over US$ 250 Million (the then Commander of the Factory I visited in 2011, Senior Colonel Ertuğrul AKKAYA pointed that the facility contributed an added value of over TRY 200 Million to the country’s economy in 2009-2010). The Optical Manufacturing and Modernization Line contains a 10,000 Class Cleanroom for Optical Coating design and production of spherical and non-spherical lenses up to 500mm and prisms. Moreover, the Factory contains the T-155 FIRTINA Test Workshop where the bench tests are conducted for the MTU MB-881 Ka-500 Engine with a 1,000hp capacity used in FIRTINA S/P Howitzers and Allison X1100-5A3 Transmissions prior to their installation to the vehicle. 

In line with an agreement reached in 2018, 140 FIRTINA-II S/P Howitzer Systems for the Land Forces Command were ordered previously to the 1st ABFM that took part in the development of the Leopard 2NG MBT concerning the Leopard 2A4 MBT Modernization Project in cooperation with Aselsan. Additionally, the manufacturing of 35 POYRAZ Ammunition Resupply Vehicles will be conducted. FIRTINA-II, whose prototype tests were carried out in 2017, is an improved new generation version of the T-155 FIRTINA S/P Howitzer; New turret design with ammunition conditioning sections, fully electric and servo controlled turret drive system (replaces the existing hydraulic-based turret drive system), improved Fire Control System, increased firing rate, extended effective range, fully automatic ammunition loading system (FIRTINA-I is equipped with an electrically operated and electronically controlled automatic ammunition loading system) and includes a number of improvements over its predecessor, including Aselsan’s 12.7mm SARP RCWS, which also provides direct fire capability to the howitzer thanks to its EO/IR optic sensors. Some of the existing FIRTINA-I S/P Howitzers are also expected to be upgraded to the level of FIRTINA-II. As noted by the Minister of National Defense AKAR in his remark at the TGNA, the revenue collected would probably be booked onto BMC’s account since the counterpart of the two manufacturing activities is this company. Even though Minister AKAR did not reveal a clear information on whether the 3 FIRTINA S/P Howitzers (which I believe will be a version of FIRTINA-II) were to be delivered to the Land Forces Command or Qatar, in my opinion they will be delivered to the Land Forces Command because Minister AKAR announced the signing of a contract on the sale of the FIRTINA S/P Howitzer to Qatar on February 5, 2019. Neither the volume of the contract nor the number of FIRTINAs to be delivered was revealed. 

T-155 FIRTINA S/P Howitzers with a current Combat Train of 47 tons have a power pack composed of the Allison X1100-5A3 Full-Automatic Transmission matched with the MTU-881 Ka-500 Diesel Engine with 1,000hp capacity and 8 cylinders. FIRTINA-II S/P Howitzers with a Combat Train indicated as 48 tons on the product information sheet are 1.1m longer and 45cm higher than its predecessor, and the use of a power pack of 1,200hp capacity was envisaged for this version. Within the scope of the M60T MBT Modernization Project, final assembly and tests of the power pack composed of the MTU-881 Ka-500 Engine and Renk RK304S Transmission were executed at MTU’s premises in Turkey while the MTU-881 Ka-501 Engines used in FIRTINA S/P Howitzers were being delivered to Turkey over South Korea. Within this scope, for instance, on 12 February 2009, South Korea signed a contract worth EUR 65.5 Million for 428 MT-881 Ka-500 engines with Germany’s MTU Company. In those days, it was stated that 31 of these engines would be exported again to Turkey (1st ABFM) to be used in FIRTINA S/P Howitzers upon the completion of their final assembly with certain indigenous components in the STX Engine (MT-Engine) active in South Korea under MTU’s license for many years and at Samsung Techwin (manufacturer of STW, K-9 and K-10 vehicles) companies. The MT-881 Ka-500 engine is capable of generating 735kW (985hp) at a speed of 2,700rpm and its dimensions are 1,426mm x 1,250mm x 1,210mm. The dry weight of the engine is indicated as 1,478 kg.

According to the information that appeared in the press, a power pack containing German MTU’s diesel engines and transmissions built by Allison will be used in these 3 FIRTINA-II S/P Howitzers. These engines and transmissions were also employed for the T-155 FIRTINA S/P Howitzers that are kept in reserve as spares. It is mentioned that there are two alternatives for the powertrain of the remaining 137 FIRTINA-II S/P Howitzers. Three alternatives regarding the engine can be considered since there are no official statements on this issue yet. These alternatives are: AVDS manufactured by L3 Harris (the AVDS-1790-9A with a 1,200hp capacity and has 70% common parts with the AVDS-1790-2C engine used in M48 and M60 MBTs, or the AVDS-1790-8A with a 1,050hp capacity and has 80% common parts), Caterpillar Defense UK (Caterpillar Defense United Kingdom/CAT UK) and Ukroboronprom which is an enterprise of the Ukraine Public Defense Industry. The strongest candidate regarding the transmission requirement is the Allison’s X100-5A3 Series with high customer satisfaction and which could even be matched with the engines with 1,500hp capacity. HEMA HST Automotive, active in the transmission field since 1989, conducts the manufacturing of X200 and X1100 cross-drive transmissions under Allison license. The company recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the production of the transmissions to be used in FIRTINA-II S/P Howitzers with the MoND during IDEF ’19. 

On the other hand, again during IDEF ’19, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the MoND and Caterpillar Defense UK (CAT UK) on the development of a new powertrain composed of a diesel engine with a 1,200hp capacity and 12 cylinders (V12) and an Allison X1100-5A3 Transmission that will be used in FIRTINA-II S/P Howitzers. The officials of the company informed me that the engineers of the 1st ABFM will also be taking part in the development process of the new engine that will be shaped over an existing Caterpillar Defense UK product engine’s core and since the engine to be manufactured here would not contain any components or sub-systems subject to ITAR restrictions, no restrictions will be experienced in its exports (ITAR-Free). The ITAR-Free powertrain bears great importance in terms of the export of FIRTINA S/P Howitzers. Azerbaijan was the first export customer of the T-155 FIRTINA S/P Howitzer Systems by placing an order for 36 vehicles in 2010. However, upon Germany’s refusal to grant the license required for the powertrain’s export due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict emerging between Azerbaijan and Armenia during those days, this sale could not be accomplished. 

In March 2017, Delta Defense Industry Company which represented Ukraine Public Defense Industry enterprise Ukroboronprom in Turkey revealed an alternative powertrain solution composed of the 5TDFMA-1 Diesel Engine with a power capacity of 1,050hp and an Automatic Transmission with 7 forward gears and 1 reverse gear for the 155mm and 52 caliber T-155 FIRTINA Self Propelled Howitzers. The company claimed that the 5TDFMA-1 Engines can be compatible with the T-155 FIRTINA S/P Howitzer upon certain revision activities. In October 2018, it was claimed that the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKEK) management signed an agreement with Ukroboronprom for the procurement of 20 powertrains (including the 5TDFMA-1 engine). The 5TDFMA-1 Engine is a Diesel Engine that weighs 1,080 kg; its width is 581mm, height 955mm and length 1,413mm. The two-stage, turbocharged, flat engine with 5 cylinders has opposed pistons (10 pistons in total) also features a built-in cooling fan drive.