Turkish defense sector alarmed over reports of reshuffle
The Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) has many programs involving drones, fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and rockets, numerous electronic systems, tanks and a rich menu of armored vehicles. Hürriyet photoIt has been widely speculated in recent weeks that the man who for the last decade has managed tens of billions of dollars’ worth of defense programs is finally departing. Reports in the Turkish media suggested that Murad Bayar, head of the defense procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), would be appointed as Turkish ambassador to Ottawa, and be replaced by a Constitutional Court judge.
However, Bayar is not departing and speculations are pure speculations, sources close to Bayar’s office said. “Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has a perfect working relationship with Bayar, and he would be the first to block it even if Bayar wanted to quit,” a senior defense official said.
Bayar has been Turkey’s top defense procurement official for the last 10 years – the longest serving head of SSM. He has specifically implemented Erdoğan’s ambitious policy of substituting foreign-made weapons systems with indigenous, national systems. The current such programs involve drones, fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and rockets, numerous electronic systems, tanks and a rich menu of armored vehicles.
‘The undersecretary will not leave’
A close aide to Bayar said, “The undersecretary has no intention of leaving several ongoing programs unfinished. He will keep on personally reporting to the defense minister and the prime minister.” A senior official from a Western defense manufacturer said: “We have been alarmed by the news reports [about Bayar’s departure]. That would mean major delays and, perhaps, several mishaps in programs Turkish defense companies manage in partnership with Western technology suppliers, not to mention the big-scale international programs Turkey is a partner of.” Press reports have suggested Bayar would be replaced by Ibrahim Er, a member of the Council of State. Er, a close relative of Erdoğan, is a graduate of Giresun’s Education Institute and spent most of his career as a primary school teacher. In 2011, he was appointed general director of the Education Ministry’s primary education department.