ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s most prominent defense and aerospace exhibition is set to showcase several indigenous Turkish systems to foreign buyers.
“New Turkish systems will dominate the show this year, with their producers seeking to win new export contracts,” a senior defense procurement official said of the International Defence Industry Fair taking place in Istanbul April 30-May 3. “New export deals will be the main motive for Turkish manufacturers.”
A Turkish defense analyst said this year’s show will highlight aerospace systems, including drones, a new fighter jet and an advanced jet trainer, plus naval systems and a locally made new-generation battle tank.
Turkey’s state-controlled defense entities Aselsan, a defense electronics specialist, and missile-maker Roketsan will be the leading exhibitors. Aselsan and Roketsan are co-partners in an ambitious program to build Turkey’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system.
Over the past several years, Turkey’s local industry has sought to develop several armed and unarmed drone systems, as well as the country’s first indigenous fighter jet (TF-X), an advanced trainer jet (Hurkuş) and Turkey’s first indigenous tank (Altay).
In recent years, Turkey’s defense and aerospace industries reported an average export increase of 8 to 10 percent annually. Only in the past six years have defense and aerospace exports risen by 61 percent, while Turkey’s overall exports rose by 10.5 percent. Turkey’s defense and aerospace exports have risen from an annual $1.388 billion in 2013 to $2.035 billion in 2018. In January 2019 the sector reported $175 million worth of exports. This compares with sales growth from $5.076 billion in 2013 to $6.693 billion in 2017.
IDEF is expected to lure more than 900 local and foreign companies this year. Turkish officials also invited 144 foreign defense ministers and procurement officials as well as more than 400 foreign delegations.
In 2017, IDEF hosted 133 official delegations from 67 countries and 820 companies from 50 companies.
Recently, Turkish Aerospace Industries, which is the lead manufacturer on the TF-X and Hurkus programs, announced it will invest $181 million in a new composite plant, the world’s fourth-largest facility of its kind, in Kahramankazan near Ankara. TAI said it aims to meet 2 percent of the world’s overall aerial composite structures after its new plant becomes fully operational.
IDEF is set to kick off amid a row between NATO allies Turkey and the United States over the former’s quest to deploy the Russian-made S-400 air defense system on its soil.
The U.S. has threatened to expel Turkey from the multinational Joint Strike Fighter program that builds the F-35 fighter jet. Turkey is a member of the consortium that builds the F-35, and the local industry could lose up to $10 billion if the country is kicked out of the program.
If Turkey accepts the S-400, “no F-35s will ever reach Turkish soil. And Turkish participation in the F-35 program, including manufacturing parts, repairing and servicing the fighters, will be terminated, taking Turkish companies out of the manufacturing and supply chain for the program,” wrote a group of bipartisan lawmakers from the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In addition Turkey has been aggressively marketing the T129, a helicopter gunship produced by TAI under license from the Italian-British firm AgustaWestland. Last year, Turkey signed a $1.5 billion deal with Pakistan to sell 30 T129s. It is also in talks with the Philippines for the sale of eight attack helicopters.
Those and other potentially successful export deals for the T129 could be blocked amid the U.S.-Turkey dispute if the U.S. denies export licenses to the Turkish manufacturer. The T129 is powered by two LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engines. The T800-4A is an export version of the CTS800 engine. LHTEC, which makes the engine, is a joint venture between the American company Honeywell and the British firm Rolls-Royce.
Burak Ege Bekdil is the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.