Defense contracts await reshuffle
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) and Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel (R) are members of the Defense Industry Executive Committee, along with Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and the head of the procurement agency.Turkey’s top defense procurement decisions, put on a de facto hold due to pre-election political turmoil, will resume in the next few months after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan finished a reshuffling of procurement and industry bureaucracy, officials and analysts agree.
Erdoğan must and will start by appointing a new procurement chief. Murad Bayar, head of the procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), was removed from office only days before the local polls on March 30, to be appointed as chief adviser to Erdoğan.
Defense industry sources said Erdoğan would chose Bayar’s successor from among a few candidates. They say front-runners include a senior Istanbul municipality official and a Turkish Airlines executive. That appointment may be followed by further reshuffling within SSM, sources said.
PM’s decision key
“All ongoing armament programs will have to wait until the new boss takes over. It may take the new chief a couple of months to have detailed knowledge about dozens of critical modernizations dossiers,” said one senior SSM official. “When he is ready to go,” the same official explained, “There must be a meeting of the committee.”
The committee is the Defense Industry Executive Committee chaired by Erdoğan. Its other members are Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and the head of the SSM. The committee’s last scheduled meeting, on Feb. 25, had to be put off indefinitely due to political turbulence.
“Unless there is more political friction to distract the prime minister, we should expect things go back to normal by the summer,” another defense official said. But by the summer, Erdoğan will be busy campaigning for himself or his party’s candidate for the presidential elections.
“A better normalcy may come after the presidential elections [first round of which is scheduled for Aug. 10],” said the SSM official.
When it will be business as usual, Turkey’s priority decisions will include whether to go ahead with a September decision to select a Chinese contender for the construction of the country’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system; to jump into the development phase of what will eventually become Turkey’s first indigenous fighter jet; to award contractors for multibillion-dollar naval programs; to find or develop a suitable engine for what will become Turkey’s first indigenous new generation battle tank; and whether to place Turkey’s first order (a batch of two aircraft) of the multinational, new generation F-35 fighter jet.