Turkish defense industry dizzying heads

Last week was a very busy one for the Turkish defense industry. There was so much good news that if we were to write only the titles of all of them here, the space of this column would not be enough.

One reason why there were so many developments in one week was the World Defense Show, a defense exhibition held in Saudi Arabia. News posts show that Turkish companies dominated the event. Most especially, the agreements made by leading companies such as Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and defense giant Aselsan were remarkable. Although most of the details were not disclosed, according to the information received, Aselsan may sell Marlin unmanned naval vehicles to Saudi Arabia. In addition, TAI will produce the T625 Gökbey helicopter together with the Saudis. A great success for a helicopter that has not yet entered the available inventory.

TAI also signed an agreement with EDGE Group, a defense industry group of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There is not much information about the details of the agreement, but the fact that TAI General Manager Temel Kotil was holding a plaque with the KAAN jet on it in the photo he took with the CEO of EDGE Group, Hamad Al Marar, brings to mind the possibility of the UAE becoming a partner in the KAAN project. We have written many times in both academic and newspaper articles but let’s remind and underline again that friendly countries have to be partners in the production of KAAN. In recent times, the Saudis have not been able to buy the Eurofighter and the Emiratis have not been able to buy the F-35 due to (un)declared sanctions. Whereas, there will be no restrictions on the sale of KAAN to Türkiye’s friends. Besides, they will also have partnerships with KAAN, which enables them to have free access to the jet.

Baykar’s expanding drone ventures

In addition to providing details about the drone factory that Baykar will open in Saudi Arabia, the exhibition also revealed that the company will sell an additional 60 Akıncı unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). It was also learned during the week that the Baykar Group has started construction of a factory in Kyiv, where it will produce 120 units of Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs per year. By the way, let us also advise Baykar to produce kamikaze drones, too. Although Turkish companies have the capacity, unfortunately, the Turkish defense industry does not have a prominent kamikaze drone model. There is a serious speed problem in manufacturing. So many project names are viral, but there are no models that have yet proven themselves on the battlefield. However, Baykar Group, which has the capability to manufacture products quickly, can close this gap.

On the other hand, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said that Turkish UCAVs will also be sold to Egypt. Thus, when realized, Türkiye-made UCAVs will be sold to all leading Arab countries in the Middle East.

However, the most conspicuous news mentioned this week was that Türkiye requested the F110 engine used in F-16s and KAAN from Washington for UCAVs. Since the engines of the current UCAVs are not very large, they can fly with a maximum payload of 1.5 tons. However, if the F110 engine is used, up to 7 tons of payload can be carried. Moreover, the speed of the UCAV triples. If the F110 engines are used, a kind of unmanned F-16 or KAAN will be produced, which will put the Turkish defense industry ahead of its competitors. It is not known whether the Americans will give the F110, but since the design of an equivalent domestic engine has started, it may be possible to see Türkiye’s unmanned jet in the sky within 10 years at the latest.

Meanwhile, Turkish defense companies received $10.2 billion worth of orders last year. In other words, they received twice as many orders as they exported. This year’s figures are expected to be higher. If there is no intervention, the achievements in the defense industry, which show how far Turkish engineering has come, will increase even more in the future. The robustness of the sector and the high added value of its products are poised to elevate Türkiye’s standing in the defense sector. Looking back, it was merely a decade ago (May 18, 2014) when the Turkish army introduced its inaugural domestically produced infantry rifle into available inventory.

Source: Daily Sabah

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İbrahim Karataş

İbrahim Karataş

İbrahim Karataş is a columnist at Yeni Akit, a daily newspaper based in Istanbul.

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