AA News

Republic of Türkiye enters new century with formidable domestic defense advances

Türkiye is completing its 100th anniversary with hundreds of domestically produced weapons systems ranging from missiles to mortars.

In a strategic geography where conflicts have been witnessed through the ages, Türkiye has always needed high-level defense products to protect itself. But due to strained relations with some countries over disagreements, it has been facing some embargoes or difficulties in obtaining these systems.

In 1985, the country established the Defense Industry Development and Support Administration, which later became the Presidency of Defense Industries, amid arms embargoes related to its peace operation in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

The years 1985-2004 are considered to be the founding period of the Turkish defense industry, when defense companies started with assembly as subcontractors in order to close the gap between trained manpower and technology after infrastructure investments.

The Turkish Armed Forces Foundation (TAFF) was established during this period and Aselsan, Havelsan, TAI, Isbir, Aspi̇lsan and Roketsan, which were established in 1988 under the roof of TAFF, became the driving force of the Turkish defense industry.

Especially in the last decade, the country has gained significant ground in the defense field thanks to the increasing number of domestic defense companies.

While the country’s defense imports decreased largely, the country became an exporter of some products, such that four Turkish defense giants — Aselsan, Roketsan, TAI and Asfat — entered the top defense exporters list of the US-based Defense News.

Türkiye’s defense exports totaled $4.5 billion last year.

Recent developments

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) producer Baykar continues to test its new combat UAV the Bayraktar TB3 while continuing to export another combat UAV, the TB2.

Baykar also continues to test its unmanned fighter jet, Bayraktar Kizilelma.

The firm has also recently introduced a cruise missile, Kemankes.

Türkiye’s state-run aviation company TAI, which has a wide product range, from helicopters to training planes to UAVs, has showcased its fourth generation Kaan fighter jet this year.

Kaan is expected to fly with an indigenously produced engine in 2028. The country aims to replace its existing F-16 fleet with new generation aircraft, including Kaan, by the 2030s.

Turkish defense giants Aselsan and Roketsan focused on an indigenous air defense system which is of critical importance for the safety of the country.

While there are several systems for various altitudes in the test phase, the Siper air defense system with a range of 800 kilometers (500 miles) has come to the forefront.

Turkish small arms producer Sarsilmaz has been manufacturing various types and sizes of weapons for a long time. Its Sar 9 pistol won awards a couple of times in the US market.

The country made also a significant leap in the marine side by producing a type of aircraft carrier this year in cooperation with a Spanish firm, and the ship can be equipped with UAVs.

As part of the country’s production of MILGEM class ships, it established many warships for its navy and countries such as Pakistan.

Beside vehicles, the country manufacturers sub-systems, strategic parts for defense products and software.

In 2021, Canada blocked exports of a camera component used in Turkish drones, but Turkish defense giant Aselsan managed to produce a similar one in a short period and Turkish UAVs were equipped with this system.

Over the years, Turkish defense companies and engineers have managed to replace imported goods with domestic products and systems thanks to embargoes and bans.

The country has also organized major defense and technology events such as the SAHA Expo, IDEF and TEKNOFEST to showcase its developments and latest products to the world.