Turkey’s drones ‘game changer,’ says defense industry president
SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ- Ankara
Turkey’s armed drones have been considered a “game changer” in many conflict areas and continue to attract attention from the markets in different geographies, the head of Turkey’s defense industries’ body has said, vowing Turkey will continue to further improve its defense industry through an assertive campaign in 2022 despite open and covered embargoes.
“The year 2022 will mark the year when our projects that started in the past are completed, our new systems are delivered to our security forces. We will also start new projects this year in line with our needs,” Professor İsmail Demir, the president of the Defense Industries, said at a comprehensive press conference with Ankara bureau chiefs of media outlets on Jan. 31. “In addition to these, there will be new projects that will create surprise effects,” he said.
The presidency has outlined 44 objectives to be fulfilled in 2022, including the delivery of Gökbey, a general-purpose helicopter produced as part of Turkey’s Original Helicopter Program, to the Gendarmerie General Command, the roll-out of the Hürjet, the advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft and the start of ground tests as well as the delivery of the air-to-air missiles, Bozdoğan and Gökdoğan.
The Turkish Defense Industries Presidency has accomplished 80 percent of 40 objectives outlined at the beginning of 2021, Demir informed, citing that this achievement has been made despite “open and covered” embargoes.
“In the last 20 years where Turkey has made progress in every field, we proudly say that the defense industry has made one the biggest leaps,” he suggested. The total value of the defense industry projects exceeded from $5.5 billion in 2002 to $60 billion in 2021 and the trade volume from only $248 million in 2002 to $3.2 billion, according to the presidency’s official figures.
Turkey’s armed drones attract attention
One of the most important products of the Turkish defense industry in recent years were drones and armed drones, as well as armored personnel carriers and corvettes, Demir informed, stressing that more countries are interested in the Turkish defense industry when they see the quality and effectiveness of the equipment.
“There is a big interest from Africa. And we have big expectations from this potential in Africa. But not only from there. There is also a growing interest from Southeastern Asia and the Middle East,” Demir said, adding that Turkey’s drones have been regarded as a game changer in many territories.
On a question about Turkey’s sales of armed drones to Ukraine which caused a disturbance in Russia, Demir said, “Our ties with Ukraine have been long-lasting. This relationship has nothing to do with the ongoing crisis [between Russia and Ukraine]. We also have ties with Russia, and we are exerting efforts that these ties are not affected.”
Every country has the liberty to export military equipment and this is valid for Ukraine, Russia as well as Turkey, he added.
Turkey facing “embargoes”
On a question what he meant by “open and covered embargoes,” Demir said there was no country openly announcing that it is imposing an arms embargo on Turkey but they are using different ways to prolong the issuance of certain export licenses as seen in the Turkey-Pakistan deal for the latter’s acquisition of ATAK helicopters.
“There is a serious demand from Pakistan. The problem stems from the prolongation of the export license of its engine. There was no denial but the process has not been completed yet. Pakistan has waited but they are in need of these,” Demir said, without directly naming the United States, which has not cleared the process for the sale.
Another indirect embargo Turkey is facing is on the supply of the engines for Turkey’s indigenous Altay tanks, Demir said, recalling that Turkey has been waiting for a response from the supply country for the past five years. “The only way to resolve this is to produce own technology. We cannot accept the dependence on the foreign supply on strategic equipment,” Demir added.
Power balance won’t change in Aegean
Demir, on a question about Greece’s acquisition of six Rafael jetfighters from France, stressed that the Greek purchase of these equipment won’t change the power balance in the Aegean. “As our defense minister says from time to time, these are futile efforts. The power balance will always be on Turkey’s advantage in the Aegean,” he noted.