Can the Turkish defense industry catch up with the world?
The progress in the Turkish defense industry is unrivalled. No other industry in Turkey has done so much in so little time. In the last decade, Turkish businesses and state-owned R&D centers have put amazing effort into their work and received amazing outcomes.
Of many successful weapons, the most famous is undoubtedly Bayraktar Holding’s drones. Before them, we had to rely on Israeli technology. We were paying up to $60 million per drone to a foreign country. The United States has over 20 years more experience in drone design, naturally their army has much more sophisticated drones. But I believe if the government keeps on supporting companies like Bayraktar, we will catch up with them pretty quickly.
For me, my second biggest achievement is Milgem. It is a Turkish national warship program, the purpose of which was to build a modern littoral combat ship with indigenous anti-submarine warfare and high-seas patrol capabilities, extensively using the principles of stealth technology in its design. Three Ada-class corvettes have already been commissioned by the Turkish Navy and more are scheduled to enter into service in due course. This was possible by the efforts of Özden Örnek, an ex-Amiral falsely accused in the Balyoz case.
Thirdly, the domestic attack helicopter, ATAK, is successfully running missions all around Turkey. ATAK is not 100 percent domestic. The motor of the helicopter comes from the U.S., that is why we cannot sell it to third countries without consent from the U.S.
However, in the near future, we can build a 100 percent domestic helicopter if we keep this trend going.
The government is taking necessary steps in that direction.
According to Hürriyet Daily News, “Turkey’s defense procurement agency has reviewed the implementation process of 45 projects outlined in the 100-day action plan of the government amid threats by the United States to block the sale of F-35 aircrafts and other military equipment against Ankara’s plans to purchase the S-400 air defense systems from Russia.”
Among those 45 projects there are many new research projects about war time communications and new weapons like rail guns.
These are all fantastic developments. However, as we are catching up with the rest of the world, warfare technologies are changing dramatically and this change is not driven by the hardware side but is coming from the software side.
The U.S. already has drones running on software. Artificial intelligence lets them decide where to go and what to do by themselves. The robots of Boston Dynamics are being used in the field by the marines. Hackers can attack a country’s electric grid, its nuclear plants and military establishment’s computers and wreak havoc without firing a single shot.
So all in all, what we are doing on the hardware side is awesome but we need to keep up with software and digital warfare as well.