A Turkish Rolls Royce soon?

A Turkish Rolls Royce soon?

When one types the words “Erdoğan + indigenous + national + aircraft” in Turkish Google, it will produce 1.38 million results. Replace the word “Erdoğan” with “Davutoğlu” you will get a more modest 890,000 results. When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu mentions an “indigenous” or “national aircraft,” they could be referring to either of: A drone [the Anka], a fighter jet [TF-X], a basic trainer aircraft [the Hurkus] or a dual-use regional jet [the TRJ-328 and TRJ-628].

Recently, Turkey’s chief defense procurement official, İsmail Demir, honestly said: “We have never said that the 328 is a national aircraft, [or that] it is an entirely Turkish aircraft; we’ll never say [that].”

The problematic part about the Dornier 328 and Dornier 628 winning Turkish nationality is not about the modification process, it is about the “we” part in the undersecretary’s words. “He” may not have said, or will never say, that the 328 is an entirely Turkish aircraft. But “they” have said that many times, hoping to win a few more votes from a Turkish audience that should normally expect their leaders not to lie to them by looking straight into their eyes.

More recently, the future Turkish national car whose camouflaged photos the “science” minister, Fikri Isik, shared on social media appeared to be a “Turkish Cadillac” whose property rights Turkey acquired from Swedish carmaker/aircraft maker Saab. A “Turkish Rolls Royce” would have been a more proper choice than a “Turkish Cadillac,” as it would forever remind motorists of how a former American ambassador had portrayed Turkey: Rolls Royce ambitions, Rover resources…

As a matter of disturbing fact, the entirely Turkish attack helicopter, the T129, is the making of AgustaWestland, an Italian-British manufacturer. And these days Turkey is negotiating with its American engine maker in order to win export licenses and be able to sell the “entirely Turkish attack helicopter” to third countries.

The “Turkish aircraft carrier” - more properly, a landing platform dock - will in fact be a version of the Juan Carlos I, the making of Spanish shipyard Navantia.

The Turkish company that won a 190-million-euro contract from the government to develop an engine for the “entirely Turkish tank,” the Altay, has just signed a deal with an Austrian company for know-how support.

To build its national fighter jet “which presumably will be in the skies in 2023,” Turkey first acquired pre-design kits from Saab, the same company that sold Ankara the property rights for the “Turkish Cadillac.” Now, Turkey has launched a competition for foreign aircraft makers to find a foreign partner to develop the “entirely Turkish” fighter jet.

And of course, the Turkish fighter aircraft will feature a foreign-made engine, possibly a Rolls Royce power unit. Not a bad idea: A “Turkish Rolls Royce” may not be coming in the shape of a national car but a “Turkish Rolls Royce engine” may be in the offing to power the entirely Turkish fighter jet.

Never mind if the new “entirely Turkish” assault rifle too much resembles the German Heckler & Koch’s HK-416 or if the increasingly popular mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle, the Kirpi, looks identical to Israeli manufacturer Hatehof’s similar model.  

In defense manufacturing it is perfectly normal that sub-systems and parts can come from producers all around the world. Even the most advanced countries do not boast entirely local systems. It is not too indecent or just cheap to buy parts and subsystems from non-indigenous suppliers. But it is too indecent and cheap to systematically portray defense systems as being 100 percent indigenous - and for the sake of a handful of votes.

Above all, that is being unfair to Turkish engineering, which has remarkably contributed to numerous important indigenous development programs in the defense industry. But Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is also being unfair to himself. He does not deserve to be ridiculed by telling fairy tales and causing shy smiles around half the globe.