Strategic priorities for Turkey’s Defence Industry

Turkey attaches the utmost importance to the European defence Industry platforms which are currently active all over Europe. As a an indication of this, the ASD’s an

Issue 30 - October 2011

Given the fact that she is located in a volatile region, lying in the midst of three regions where instability prevails: the Caucasus, the Balkans and the Middle East, the unwinding overall chain of events presents a challenging way ahead, where the defence industry stands as an indispensable factor for Turkey’s security and defence policies. The consequence of this vulnerability and her international responsibilities as a member of NATO and the UN, means Turkey must sustain a considerable military capability, a highly capable army and therefore in turn a proficient defence industry infrastructure. Therefore, our efforts to meet our Armed Forces’ needs can be interpreted not only as building an indigenous defence industry but also as a deepening of multinational defence cooperation activities.

In this respect, we can say that there are two pillars that shape our long-standing efforts.
The first is Turkey’s own objective of meeting armed forces requirements deriving from its regional responsibilities. The second pillar can be defined as Turkey’s international responsibilities and commitments as a NATO member and one of the key players in European defence. These two pillars, though it seems they have diverse aspirations, in fact have the same roots and are intertwined.

Turkey needs a defence industry with its indigenous products in order to provide armed forces with the best equipment. However, a sustainable defence industry with a widely deployed capability baseline is a must in order to have a stable supply chain in the domestic market. On the other hand, reducing arms import-dependency and promoting export capability are also our main priority areas. We are keen to export and remain internationally competitive in the defence sector.

In order to reach those aforementioned aspirations, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) has formulated policies set forth in the 2007-2011 Strategic Plan. The most important strategic goal of this Strategic Plan has been to restructure the defence industry so that it is capable of providing local solutions and competing in the world defence market. Recent projects that reflect vision include the Turkish National Main Battle Tank (ALTAY), the Tank Fire Control System and the Mobile Floating Assault Bridge for land platforms.

Furthermore, with regard to air platforms, efforts have mainly focused on investing on Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) and also gaining modernisation and maintenance capabilities for the systems in the inventory of the Turkish Air Force. Some of the projects reflecting this vision are the indigenous Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV, the Tactical UAV systems, T-38 Aircraft Avionics Modernisation and the C-130E/B Avionics Modernisation.

Regarding naval platforms, the main aim is to be able to perform all the design and system integration of all naval ships in local shipyards, using indigenous capabilities. Latest projects handled in line with this vision are the Patrol and Anti-Submarine Warfare Ship (Milgem - National Ship) and New Type Patrol Boats.

Along with efforts to attain a greater degree of capability in main platforms, we have prepared an R&D Roadmap which targeted new ‘Networks of Excellence’. As we would like our industry to design and produce our indigenous defence products, the cooperation between universities and companies, especially those having design centres, is essential. Therefore, establishing ‘Centres of Excellence’ is of primary importance and a great deal of effort has been made to doing so. SSM has also taken substantial measures to increase the participation of small and medium size companies (SMEs) in defence projects and set new regulations to support them. Consequently, defence industry clusters comprised of small and medium scale companies are directly taking part in projects through SSM’s SME policy.

Regarding technology development - as set in the 2012-2016 Strategic Plan - we pursue a policy of developing the defence industrial base through transfer of know-how based on innovative technologies. The transfer of know-how is required in order to reach the goal of having an indigenous state-of-the-art capability. Since defence systems are complex and expensive to design, the manufacturer and test countries are required to work as a team in order to balance the distribution of workload and cost. For that reason, Turkey seeks cooperation with its allies in a vast array of projects. For instance Turkey is a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter and the A400M programmes. Within this framework, we sought and obtained a vast array of know-how transfer and their applications for future programmes, which are applied in procurement of main defence systems and platforms such as the ALTAY MBT and ATAK helicopters programmes.

As a result, we believe that we are on the right track to fulfil our aims with regard to meeting the Turkish Armed Forces’ requirements, fostering the development of the Turkish defence industrial base, supporting R&D activities, exports and the coordination of industrialisation activities. Recent economic figures also support our stance. The objective set for 2011 with respect to obtaining a 50% locally manufactured system (local content) has been surpassed and the actual figure now stands at 52.1%. In 2010, Turkey neared its 2011 target, with a total of $853.5 million for defence and aviation exports. In this context, we set the target of $2 billion for export and $8 billion for trade volume in the upcoming 2012-2016 Strategic Plan.

Regarding the second pillar - Turkey’s international commitments - the international cooperation and active participation of our industry in multinational platforms has come to the fore. As a member of NATO, Turkey had contributed much not only to the defence of Alliance but also to the defence of Europe. With regard to the industrial aspect, Turkey’s defence industry has been deeply involved in multinational projects. Our companies have become supplier of critical parts and systems. This is actually a transition from ‘only a customer’ to ‘a player’ developing and building systems at least as a second-tier manufacturer in the marketplace. We are now manufacturing various systems and sub-systems across a wide spectrum, such as in the production of night vision materials, pedestal mounted stingers, subsystems of the Milgem National Corvette Programme, armoured vehicles and UAVs. We plan to obtain Section 18 production for the Airbus A320 under the European A400M programme. Turkish companies also had a substantial share of the work for the US-led JSF programme, including the centre fuselage, structural parts and electronic assemblies, which in turn are being reassembled in their own right, constituting an increase in the level of capability and technology gained by Turkey’s defence industry. So while actively participating in NATO defence programmes, the Turkish defence industry is also becoming an active partner in large-scale European defence projects. These include the aforementioned A400M and recent joint initiatives, such as the advanced UAV, Talarion. Turkey has been able to enhance its capabilities integrating them into that of European industrial base, through supply chains.

While the Turkish defence industry is a capable and cost-effective partner involved in the European defence industrial base, Turkey is also accelerating its efforts to complete its integration with European defence institutions as well. The recent initiative to be member of OCCAR is the last - but surely not the least – of our efforts to be more integrated into such European cooperation activities.

Consequently, all of these accomplishments are examples that prove the Turkish defence industry’s competitiveness and reliability not only as a supplier for Turkish Armed Forces but also as a global partner in the international defence arena. We set an export target of $2 billion by 2016 that illustrates the capability - as well as the industrial and technological base - we want to attain in the near future. In fact, it shows the potential of the Turkish Defence Industry and its flexible structure that can adapt itself to the recent challenges and changes in the political and commercial environments. In this respect Turkey regards international consortia and bilateral programmes with allied countries and we do expect all defence industry players especially in the Europe to approach us in this manner. Turkish defence industry with its indigenous products along with its stable and sustainable capability is ready to further its cooperation with its European partners.