ANKARA — Turkey's top procurement panel, the Defense Industry Executive Committee, approved nearly $6 billion in defense programs, much of it going toward indigenous development efforts, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said March 9.

"Today we approved $5.9 billion worth of new defense projects. Around $4.5 billion worth of these projects will consist of local production," Davutoglu said after the meeting of the committee.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee is chaired by Davutoglu. Its other members are Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, chief of the military general staff, Army Gen. Hulusi Akar, and chief procurement official, Ismail Demir.

Davutoglu said that Turkey's defense industry exports rose by 35 percent in the first two months of the year. He praised efforts for indigenous programs and said that the serial production of locally developed infantry rifles will take off this year.

He said Turkey no longer needs foreign know-how in drone production. The Anka, a medium-altitude, long-endurance drone developed by Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), made its debut flight in February. The Anka flew on Feb. 5 in the eastern province of Elazig and reached an altitude of 19,000 feet while successfully carrying out a four-hour exploration and observation flight.

Davutoglu also said that a total of 10 attack helicopters (T-129s) co-produced by TAI and the Italian-British AgustaWestland, were delivered to the Turkish Army last year and 17 others would follow suit this year.

The prime minister also said that efforts to indigenously build engines to power the T-129s would gain speed this year.

Procurement sources said that the Defense Industry Executive Committee meeting also saw discussions on the ambitious Turkish program for the indigenous production of a fighter jet.

The Committee also discussed plans to design, develop and produce a dual-purpose regional jet for both civilian and military use, under license from the U.S. Sierra Nevada Corp. Production for that program is scheduled to take off in 2019.

Burak Ege Bekdil is the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.

More In Defense News