This series of studies review the remarkable developments in Turkey’s international, regional, and internal status over the last five years (2015-2020) that witnessed qualitative and fundamental changes, including the failed coup in 2016, the restructuring of the Turkish State, the referendum, and transforming the government into the Presidential System.
There were also many international and regional changes— most notably, Donald Trump becoming the United States President and the changes in the States Administration’s priorities after Joe Biden took over. It is equally important to mention the effective direction of Turkey’s foreign policy towards international issues such as Syria and Libya and its increasing role in Africa and Central Asia.
Finally, the economic, social, and political changes imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our studies cover Turkey’s energy, military industrialization, foreign relations, internal status, economy, external military interventions, and military bases beyond national borders.
As Turkey faces many challenges while moving forward, we hope to shed light on the facts of Turkey’s current regional and international position compared to five years ago.
Dr. Mustafa Al-Wahib
Director of Anadolu Center for Near East Studies
The Turkish defense industry experienced qualitative development and production growth by 2020 as the Turkish military industries got involved in air, sea, and land forces. As a result, the Turkish army’s defense capabilities have increased and expanded to be exported to many countries.
Another key point is that several Turkish companies entered the global competition list of high-quality defense industries, with seven arms manufacturers ranked among the top 100 worldwide (Defense News):
- Aselsan, Turkey’s largest defense company, ranked 52nd globally, sales reached $2.172 billion.
- TUSAŞ, also known as TAI, ranked 48th.
- BMC, Roketsan, STM, FNSS, and Havels.com were also listed.
The companies succeeded because of their expertise in military defense systems (imaging, optoelectronic technologies) and other products developed through scientific research.
Remarkably, Turkey is the 14th largest exporter of defense weapons in the world, accounting for 1% of total global exports, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
2. Statistics of Turkey’s Statistics of Turkey’s Military Industries Military Industries
According to the Defense Industry Corporation (SSB), Turkey has the technology to manufacture and sell defense and attack weapons that are compatible with NATO standards and cheaper than its international competitors. Therefore, Turkish arms exports— specifically armored vehicles, ships, and sea boats— increased significantly between 2013 and 2019 and are expected to grow more in the future.
“Turkish defense sector exports rose by 34.6% in 2019 compared to 2018,” according to the Defense Exporters Association (SSI) and the Turkish Statistics Agency (TIM).
Turkey exported its military products to 164 countries in 2019, and the largest share of exports was received by The United States, followed by European Union and Middle Eastern countries.
A significant increase in many related aspects, including the value of orders in the manufacturing process, the spending for the industry development, and the contribution of arms exports to the Turkish economy, is also noted.
|Domestic armspercentage||Employment in the sector (thousand)||Development sector expenditure(million-dollar)||Value of import(million-dollar)||Arms deal’s orders(million-dollar)||Arms deal’s annual income(million-dollar)||Public expenditure on arms(million-dollar)||Year|
|No official statistics are available||35502||1.254||1,289||11.913||1.953||5.968||2016|
|No official statistics are available||44740||1.237||1.544||8.055||1.824||6.693||2017|
|No official statistics are available||67239||1.448||2.449||12.204||2.188||8.761||2018|
Turkey’s share of arms imports decreased by 45% from 2015 to 2019 (see table 1). In general, Turkey’s import of military equipment decreased from 70% to only 30%, according to the latest statistics.
- Defense and aviation sales reached $11 billion in 2020.
- Turkish defense companies also increased in number (56 in 2002 to 1,500 in 2020).
- The workforce reached around 75.000.
- There were 700 implemented defense projects in 2020 and 350 new projects launched between 2015 and 2020.
- Turkish defense projects’ budget was $5.5 billion in 2002, while it reached $60 billion in 2020─ almost 11 times higher than in 2002.
According to TIM (Turkish Statistics Agency), the top 10 importers of Turkish arms (starting from 29 February 2020) are: United States ($131,257 million), Germany ($38,229 million), United Arab Emirates ($26,091 million), India ($23,984 million), Netherlands ($16,305 million), Qatar ($12,728 million), Switzerland ($12,062 million), Saudi Arabia ($ 11,354 million), the United Kingdom ($ 8,653 million) and Azerbaijan ($ 8,364 million).
In 2019, platforms and ground systems received the largest share of public expenditure and exports, followed by the aviation sectors (military and civil) in second place. (See Table 2)
|The volume exported (in a million dollars)||Sector|
|3.531||Ground weapons (tanks, armored vehicles, etc.)|
|1.836||Civil aviation parts|
In the 2019-2023 strategic plan, published in December 2019, the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) indicated that the annual sales volume of the Turkish defense and space industry is set to rise to $26.9 billion, and local industries reliance has to reach 75% by the end of 2023 – an increase of 10% compared to 2018.
According to the Turkish Military Corporation, the export’s focus will be particularly on the Middle East, the Pacific, South and Central Asia, North Africa, and South America.
3. The Factors of recent Turkish Developments in Arms Manufacturers
The Turkish defense industry’s objectives were set in the Development Plan for the years (2014-2018):
- To create and support a competitive infrastructure in specific areas of the defense industry.
- To promote Turkey’s defense system to meet domestic demands in an integrated and sustainable manner.
- To increase research and development activities.
Efforts to build the defense industry in Turkey started in the 1970s, especially when the United States imposed an arms embargo on Turkey in 1974 against the backdrop of the Cyprus crisis.
Having relied almost completely on NATO to support its army, Turkey found itself in a precarious situation. As a result, the Turkish government decided to build and develop Turkish domestic military manufacturing capabilities to reduce its dependence on foreign suppliers and meet the needs of the armed forces locally.
Recently, Turkey has witnessed developments and a qualitative shift in the defense industry, with four contributing factors:
1- The coup attempt on 15 July 2016 that led to a comprehensive restructure as the defense industry was first attached to the Turkish presidency then restructured as the “Presidency of the Defense Industry.”
2- The expansion of anti-threat operations beyond Turkey’s borders. Since August 2016, Turkey has carried out several military operations abroad, particularly in Syria and Iraq, including three major operations against ISIS and the PKK / PYD in Syria. However, Some Western countries opposed Turkey’s recent Peace Spring Operation in northern Syria, prompting some of them to suspend the supply of arms, or parts used in military industries, to Turkey.
3- Recent regional events and the resulting instability, such as developments in the Mediterranean and in Arab and regional states such as Syria, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Libya, as well as NATO’s withdrawal from supporting Turkey in threats it faces, particularly during the period of Turkey’s downing of a Russian Sukhoi aircraft on the Turkish-Syrian border.
4- Turkey’s realization that it cannot be a regional force without a deterrent military force. Moreover, the Turkish government may have considered that developing a national industrial base could help build the foundations for a more independent foreign policy.
Overall, an advanced defense industrial base can reach a regional power status by supplying the state with domestic arms on the one hand and arms exports that form a broader political and military cooperation on the other hand.
Over the past decade, Turkey has spent billions of dollars developing its defense sector to enhance its self-sufficiency to counter any possible embargo on its arms imports. Today, the Turkish domestic defense industry covers 70% of the state’s military needs, compared to 45% five years ago.
According to SSB, the military industry invested $60 billion in defense projects which led to Turkey’s arms industry development. By 2053, the state aims to make the Turkish defense industry 100% independent and boost its export capacity to reach $50 billion.
Moreover, the Government has adopted new regulatory measures. According to President Erdogan, the Military Industries Corporation has been placed within the institutions of the Turkish Presidency Office to improve its potential, allocate resources, and increase its efficiency. The Government has also consistently entrusted the diplomatic corps with marketing Turkish military equipment abroad and creating new markets for its defense exports.
4. Major Turkish Military Industries Companies
Turkey had one company listed in the top 100 world defense companies list in 2010. Still, with six more added to the list, Turkish companies have outnumbered Israel, Japan, Russia, and Sweden’s companies on the same list.
Turkish Aircraft Industries Corporation (TUSAS) was established in 1973 under the Turkish Ministry of Industry and Technology auspices to reduce foreign dependency. As part of a 2005 restructuring, TAI and TUSAS merged to form Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), and according to Defense News, TAI is the world’s 72nd biggest arms producer.
TAI works on fixed and rotary aircraft, drones, and military satellites. It was also an essential partner in the F- 35 manufacturing program and the aircraft’s center fuselage production. Furthermore, the company has operated one of the engine maintenance facilities for the F- 35.
Important programs run by the company:
- GOKTURK- 2 (Turkey’s first military intelligence satellite)
- T- 129 ATAK attack helicopter (in cooperation with Agusta Westland)
- Hurkus training aircraft (the first fully developed aircraft in Turkey)
- ANKA drone
Aselsan was established in 1975 to produce communications equipment, and according to Defense News, it is one of the largest arms companies in Turkey and ranks 58th worldwide.
- In 1980, the first Manpack and Tank Tank wireless radios were delivered to the Turkish Armed Force.
- In 1983, the first export was realized.
- Later, Aselsan produced the Stinger and F-16 Missiles.
- In the early 1990s, the Radars and Electro-Optical Systems were included in the Aselsan product range.
- In 1990, Aselsan products were integrated into all weapons systems of the Turkish Armed Forces.
Aselsan is a major provider of avionics and naval and weapon systems, including the fifth-generation fighters.
Some of the company’s products:
- Altay Main Battle Tank
- Tulpar Infantry Fighting Vehicle
- ANKA Middle Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Air Vehicle
- T129 ATAK
- SOM cruise missiles
- MILGEM corvette
To establish the nation’s industrial base on missile technology, Roketsan was founded in 1988. The first project was producing the Stinger Missiles System under the European Common Stinger Production Project. It has since developed a range of other munitions for the Turkish Armed Forces.
Some of the company’s products:
- TR-107 Rocket with a range of 11 km and TR-122 Rocket with a range of 40 km
- Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) System
- OMTAS and UMTAS anti-tank missiles
Ranked 85th on Defense News Top 100, STM works to develop and find innovative and intelligent technological solutions in marine vessels. Recently, STM has been developing kamikaze drones and innovative satellite technologies.
The company develops software and flight simulators to train pilots on next-generation air platforms.
4.6 Baykar Defense
The company produced the TB- 2 combat drone that is used on both national and international missions.
Ranked 85 for the first time in 2019, BMC is one of the major armored vehicle manufacturers in the Turkish defense industry.
5. Major Developments in the Turkish Military Industry between 2014-2020
The mentioned companies supply arms to the Turkish Armed Forces and are active players in the international arms market, which is essential for the future of the Turkish defense industry.
5.1 Major Developments in Aviation and Air Defense
- Bayraktar TB2
Developed and manufactured indigenously by Baykar, Bayraktar is a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and armed attack missions.
- Currently, 86 Bayraktar aircraft serve Turkey.
- Bayraktar TB2 holds a record for endurance (27 hours 3 minutes) and altitude (27.030 feet).
- Bayraktar TB2 is the first-ever aircraft in its category to be exported abroad.
- Bayraktar TB2 is used in Turkish military operations in Syria and Libya.
- Bayraktar TB2 is successfully used by Azerbaijani forces in their recent battle against Armenia in the Karabakh region.
ANKA-S, produced by TIA, is one of the most important projects of the Turkish defense industry as it added strategic force to the Air Force Command.
- The aircraft is controlled by satellites.
- Transmitting encrypted data in all communications systems represents ANKA-S’s powerful information security.
- ANKA-S is equipped for all difficult operational conditions.
- ANAKA-S is programmed to land on emergency bases in case of connection loss.
- The ANKA-S System is developed for day and night reconnaissance, surveillance, fixed/mobile target detection, detection, identification, tracking, and real-time image intelligence tasks, including those under unfavorable weather conditions.
- Aksungur UAV
The Aksungur UAV, produced by the Turkish Aerospace Industry Company (TAI), has advanced capabilities. It became the first Turkish UAV to carry 227 kg of munitions and an 89 kg warhead, fired using laser guidance, in addition to the MK- 81 and MK- 82 bomb load.
HİSAR-A, a low-altitude air defense missile system, is an air defense missile used against fighter aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles, and aerial vehicles to protect military bases, ports, and facilities from air threats.
Recent Development in Aviation and Air Defence Sector:
- ROKETSAN has announced that it had developed TRG-230 missiles with a range of 70 kilometers, a precise version of the 230-millimeter (9-inch) TR-230 missile, which is guided using GPS/INS navigation and can be launched from ROKETSAN’s Tiger Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher.
- On August 30, ROKETSAN released recordings and information on the test of a new version of the 230-millimeter-caliber missile, the TRLG-230, which can hit moving targets from the ground, increasing its precision by recognizing UCAVS.
- ASELSAN has developed the Karakulak High-Frequency Positioning and Intelligence System, and it was put into the Turkish Armed Forces service.
- ROKETSAN has developed the first probe and Turkish engine to cross space boundaries.
- In 2020, Turkey developed indigenous aviation engines, delivering the first TEI-TS1400 helicopter’s engine and producing the first turbo diesel engine for the TEI-PD 170, used in aircraft by TAI.
- At the same time, the first P- 72 naval patrol aircraft in the MELTEM- 3 projects was handed over to the Navy Command.
5.2 Major Developments in Naval Industry
- TCG Bayraktar
The TCG Bayraktar, one of the largest warships in Turkey, is a fully Turkish engineering product that took three years to design and was built by the Turkish Shipyard Foundation. It was delivered to the Naval Forces Command in 2017.
- Advanced loading and unloading techniques for amphibious tanks
- Many sensors and anti-submarine systems against any possible air or land threats
- A helicopter platform that allows the landing and take-off of a 15-ton helicopter for loading and unloading purposes
- 4 LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel), each capable of carrying 8 tons of cargo or 40 people
- High endurance capabilities of staying 30 days at sea and traveling more than 5,000 nautical miles without refueling.
- Full personnel protection for nuclear, biological, and chemical attacks because of the upper steel building that is ballistic protected
- TCG Anadolu LHD
The ship is one of the most prominent Turkish naval military industries. It is now in production and scheduled to be delivered to the Naval Forces Command in 2021.
- 68% of the parts used in ship production are indigenous.
- A helicopter platform
- Defense systems and electronic attack monitoring sensors
- Naval Operations Command Headquarter
- The Military Floating Dock
With a lifting capacity of 10,000 tons, the floating dock is used by Turkish Naval Forces for all ships and platforms.
- 175.60 meters long
- 35.54 meters inner wide
- 2 electro-hydraulic type mobile cranes for loading and unloading
- ORUÇ REİS
Constructed by Istanbul Deni̇zci̇li̇k Gemi̇ İnşa Sanayi̇ ve Ti̇caret A.Ş, ORUÇ REİS is the first seismic research ship that is nationally produced.
- Scientific studies of deep-sea pollution rates
- Seafloor scan
- Fiber-optic communication cables installation
- Oil and gas research in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.
- Pipelines construction
- MOSHIP 4000
Constructed by Istanbul Maritime Shipbuilding Industry and Trade Inc. and the Turkish Naval Forces Command, MOSHIP 4000 is a specialized submarine rescue master ship designed to perform surface and underwater rescue operations and fire fighting in various sea conditions.
- Barbaros Sınıfı Fırkateynlerimiz
It is a medium-sized, fast-moving vessel for defense operations, reconnaissance, and effective surveillance, designed by the Istanbul Maritime Shipbuilding and Trading Company.
5.3 Developments in Land Warfare Systems
Turkey has become the world’s destination when it comes to armored vehicles. Turkey’s defense industry has specialized in armor tank production to deal with threats such as explosive devices and to carry out ground incursions.
Armored vehicles— manufactured by private national companies like FNSS, Otokar, BMC, and Nurol Makina— are exported to many countries worldwide, with ALTAY MBT and KAPLAN main battle tanks as the most prestigious in international markets.
5.4 Developments in Ammunition Industry:
On April 29, 2021, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that Turkey will no longer be dependent on imported aerial bombs, ammunition, missiles, or warheads as the state has reached self-sufficiency.
Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industries (MKEK) has developed the manufacture of military munitions of all types, shapes, and sizes and will produce explosives such as RDX, HMX, and CMX that used to be imported.
With the manufacture of warheads, missiles, launchers, and bombers fired from warplanes, the Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industries Company will be the only facility in the world to bring together all these categories in one place.
6. Obstacles to Turkey’s Arms Industry
- The lack of engine technology puts Turkey under pressure as it depends mainly on imports, which are affected by many factors. For example, Turkey relies heavily on Germany for tank engines, but the latter once blocked imports due to a disagreement regarding the intervention in northern Syria. Similarly, for the Akinci drone production, Turkey relies on Ukrainian AI- 450 turboprop engines while Ukraine does not share industrialization and military technological exchange with Turkey.
- Political implications hinder Turkey from obtaining the necessary technological expertise, like the elimination of Turkey from the F- 35 fighter aircraft development program after signing the S-400 system import deal from Russia.
- Creating new markets
- Financing huge investments
- Reliance on imported and externally manufactured components whose cost increases as the local currency devalues.
To avoid these obstacles and help secure the funding for the development of Turkey’s defense industry, Turkey has partnered with Qatar to invest in military industries.
7. Development of Turkish military industries from 2015 to 2020
|Before 2015||From 2016 to 2020|
|The number of Turkish companies on the world’s top 100 defense industries (Defense News)|
|Value of Turkish arms exports||$ 1.929 million.||$ 3.098 million, according to 2019 statistics|
|Domestic armspercentage||30% of the Turkish army’s armament.||80% of the Turkish army’s armament.|
|Developments in Naval Industry||Marine military industries were not sufficient to meet local needs.||The naval industry has undergone significant development in the construction of warships and seismic vessels, with Turkey exporting its ship production to many countries around the world.|
|Developments in UAVs (drones) industry||The project was at a primary stage.||The technology and capabilities of UAVs have been effectively produced and developed.|
|Public expenditure on local arms||$ 4.9 billion.||$ 10 billion.|
|Use of domestic weapons in foreign military operations||Turkey did not use its domestically manufactured weapons.||Turkey used its domestically manufactured weapons in several places, such as Syria, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Libya.|
The Turkish military industry has witnessed a complete transformation, particularly in the aftermath of the failed coup in 2016. The defense industry was first attached to the Turkish Presidency and then restructured into the “Presidency of Defense Industries” that has played a significant role in developing all the sectors.
Turkey’s strategic plan emphasized the need to excel in developing defense and security technology programs and directing the manufacturing and scientific research programs to achieve independence and reduce imports from abroad.
Baykar and TIA, Turkish companies, were able to develop combat specifications and technology for drones to become more effective in winning battles on the ground while avoiding the physical and human losses of the operator.
Moreover, the Turkish Aerospace Industry Company TAI announced that the first homemade military aircraft test flight will take place on the Republic’s centenary in 2023.
Turkish land weapons military industries (tanks, armor, and mine sweepers) have reached a high level of development with competitive prices, placing them at the forefront of Turkish military exports by $3.5 billion in 2019.
The naval military industry underwent a remarkable development as Istanbul Maritime Shipbuilding Industry and Trade Inc. managed to make the amphibious assault ship TCG Anadolu and the seismic research vessel ORUÇ REİS, and several other naval military objects.
In general, Turkey’s ability to manufacture and develop homemade engines- which is in progress now- will be the future for its military industries, not to forget the need to achieve self-sufficiency.