Turkish Defense Industry: Key Next Step in Evolution

By Osman Sadi Dereli- Alfa Global CEO

Issue 81

The Turkish Defense Industry has gone through various stages by the guidance and decisions made throughout the last three decades. The first stage was mastering the assembly of systems. The second stage was the sharing of production during procurements. Today, the Industry is capable of designing and manufacturing its indigenous products and systems. The next stage is to be an innovative and competitive industry which creates and develops its own concepts. Sadly, it can be said that the industry is slow in the transition to the next stage.  

It is clear that countries which cannot produce their own Defense systems suffer from diplomatic and military difficulties because of their external dependence for national Defense. Turkey has taken considerable steps in leaving this problem behind following a long and costly processes. Nevertheless, avoiding the Available System Trap is Turkey’s main challenge toward achieving indigenous military capability and building a competitive edge in the world.

The Available System Trap, as we define it, is the specification of future operational requirements of a system based on an existing concept. This trap is seen as a major barrier that may prevent the national Defense industry from manufacturing innovative military capabilities and competitive systems. The Available System Trap brings along a series of negative effects on military capability development and commercial competitiveness. 

It can be said that this quandary is an Available System Trap, if the relevant criterion, which has been accepted, comes from an already available product that is conceptualized according to requirements of another country, such as geographic features, threat types and even doctrines. This results in skipping the most creative design steps, which will distinguish the system and make it advantageous over others. Also, the technical development of the system starts with assuming other countries’ concept of operations directly or indirectly, which may not be relevant to Turkey.

The Available System Trap causes planners to overlook potential innovative uses which may lead to asymmetrical affects and surprises in the future operational environment. Potential benefits of the final product are lost when the project falls into the trap. It’s impossible to prevent the loss of accumulated knowledge that would be acquired from the project.

Considering long term development cycles and systems that are designed according to the features of existing systems without the analysis of future concepts, this means they are produced according to the concepts and requirements of previous decades. Therefore, even systems have been produced for the first time, they are coming out into the operational environment with decades old systems. Even though time and money have been spent well, technological initiative has been lost from the beginning.

Starting product design with available system concepts means redesigning existing products and aiming for an already occupied commercial market. While the opponents develop systems according to new operational concepts, those who fell into the Available System Trap try selling their “newly developed” systems in a competitive market.

Defining the future operational environment and concepts for developing Defense systems are only possible by analyses requiring a qualified workforce. Lack of attention to this matter was the reason why the Turkish Armed Forces was faced with the sole responsibility of conducting those analyses.  Therein, the Turkish Defense Industry should play an essential role in the development of military concepts.

Moreover, in accordance with procurement regulations, users and system developers may come together after completion of the project definition step. This situation results in the designing of future operations and defining the requirements over existing concepts and systems. Until recently, the improvements made have not aimed to overcome the Available System Trap.

The Turkish Defense Industry should directly take part in operations analysis and concept development steps along with the relevant departments of the Turkish Armed Forces in order to not fall into the trap. In the short term, the consultancy firms which provide field expertise in concept development and testing areas should be supported or added to the projects directly by the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries.

It is obvious that avoiding the Available System Trap is impossible without thinking long term. Together the Turkish Defense Industry and the Turkish Armed Forces need to create a cooperative environment where the users and system producers can gather before the concept design of projects. Therefore, they can define user requirements and get through the process of developing the concept of operations together. The purpose of this environment should be that of combining perspectives of experts in the field of operations with engineers in the development domain. 

Such an environment properly formed and introduced to the ecosystem will reveal influences of cutting edge technologies in operations. Moreover, it will also be highly beneficial for companies by using new technologies to create completely new markets. 

Alfa-Global provides services and consultancy in the fields of Defense capability planning, operational environment analysis and concept development for the Turkish Defense Industry to overcome this significant hardship. Alfa-Global will also continue to put forth effort and resources to draw the industry’s attention and to express suggestions so that Turkey can transform this difficulty into an advantage.