Two Turkish defense firms in top 100 list, showing relative success

Two Turkish defense firms in top 100 list, showing relative success

Two Turkish defense firms in top 100 list, showing relative success

This file photo shows Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) showcasing its helicopter at the International Defense Industry Fair. TAI has been ranked among top 100 defense manufacturers for the first time.

It was big news when Aselsan, Turkey’s biggest defense firm, made its way into a list of the world’s top 100 defense giants several years ago. Since then, Aselsan has climbed the list, while a second Turkish manufacturer, TAI, has also joined the top 100.

Industry sources, however, have sought to curb any misplaced enthusiasm at the supposed success, noting that Turkish firms are behind smaller countries in both relative and absolute terms.

In this year’s top 100 defense companies list, compiled by the prestigious U.S. weekly Defense News based on 2012 figures, military electronics concern Aselsan ranked 74th, compared to 76th last year. Aselsan’s 2012 defense revenue was $862 million, up from $848 million a year ago. Its total revenue in 2012 was $906 million. 

Aerospace manufacturer TAI reported $693 million in defense revenue in 2012, down from $737 million in 2011. TAI ranked 85th on the Top 100 List, down from 83rd a year ago. TAI’s total revenue in 2012 was $832 million. 

Long way to go

“No doubt, that’s a kind of relative success,” said one defense company executive. “But I am not sure if this is absolute success given the size of the Turkish economy and the country’s population.” 

Israel, for example, with one-third of Turkey’s nominal gross domestic product and about one-tenth of its population, has four defense companies in the top 100 list. These are Elbit Systems with 2012 defense revenue worth $2.744 billion, placing it 35th; Israeli Aerospace Industries with $2.553 billion at 39th; Rafael Advanced Defense Systems with $1.781 billion at 52nd; and Israeli Military Industries with $520 million at 95th. 

These four Israeli defense companies reported combined defense revenue worth $7.598 billion in 2012, compared with $1.555 billion combined revenue for Aselsan and TAI. 

In another example, Singapore, with barely 5 million people and one-third of Turkey’s nominal gross domestic product, has one defense company on the top 100 list, ST Engineering, which ranked 47th in 2012. ST Engineering’s 2012 defense revenue was $1.889 billion, more than what Aselsan and TAI reported in combined revenue. ST Engineering’s defense revenue accounts for only 37 percent of its total revenue worth $5.1 billion. 

“Size does not matter in cashing in on advanced technologies,” said one Western defense company manager. “Turkey’s efforts to build its own industry are worth praising. But there is a long way to go for the Turkish companies.” 

One Dutch company, EADS (with operational headquarters in Paris and Munich) made its way into the top 10. With 2012 defense revenue worth $14.9 billion, EADS ranked seventh on the Defense News list. 

Exports hit record

In the top 10, there are seven U.S., one British, one Italian and one Dutch company. In the top 50, there are 28 U.S., six British, four Russian, two French, two Japanese and two Israeli companies, as well as one from each of the Netherlands, Italy, Singapore, Sweden, Germany and India. 

Turkey’s defense industry exports in the seven months ending in July reached an all-time high $781 million, and are headed toward achieving the annual target, according to industry officials. 

The export contracts through the first seven months of the year mark a 9 percent increase from the same period of 2012. Aircraft and helicopter parts accounted for most of exports this year. The top buyers of Turkish-made equipment were the U.S. and former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Other major export items this year included armored vehicles, vessels and fast boats, missiles, rockets and launch platforms, light weapons and ammunition, electronic systems, logistics support products (kitchen, hospital, clothing materials) and engineering and technology transfer services. 

The Turkish industry has targeted a record-high $1.5 billion in exports during 2013. For 2016, meanwhile, it is aiming at $4 billion in production and $2 billion in exports.