When militaries throughout the world need armored vehicles to deal with emerging threats, such as improvised explosive devices, they often look to Turkey.
The defense industry within Turkey has specialized in 4x4, 6x6 and 8x8 armored platforms, tracked infantry fighting vehicles as well as main battle tanks and weapon systems are manufactured by local private companies like FNSS, Otokar, BMC and Nurol Makina. Besides its National Security Forces use of them, these systems are exported to a wide range of users worldwide. 8x8 PARS, 6x6 PARS, 6X6 ARMA; 4x4 COBRA, EJDER YALCIN, VURAN; ALTAY MBT and KAPLAN Medium Tanks are the most remarkable product samples of Turkish Defense Industry competing at the global markets.
Since it joined the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance in 1952, Turkey has been a critical member of the organization. As western nations sought to contain the expansion of Soviet communism, the addition of Turkey delivered the alliance a foothold in the Middle East.
In the 1980s, several NATO allies began an effort to modernize their weapons systems, a movement Turkey joined enthusiastically. The country also sought to develop its own capability for weapons production to reduce its dependence on foreign manufacturers. In the years since, Turkey’s success as a developer of weapons systems has led it to become a key supplier around the world.
The Turkish defense industry started its journey with licensed production of armored combat vehicles (ACV’s) and today has access to more complex vehicles and systems such as armored amphibious rigs, antitank vehicles, medium and main battle tanks together with a wide range of turret solutions.
An essential element of Turkey’s success has been its ability to take advantage of contributions from government and private industry. The government’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) was established in 1985, followed by the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation (TAFF) in 1987. Born of the merger of many similar foundations, TAFF holds majority shares of several key, private defense companies in Turkey:
· ASELSAN, which integrates and modernizes ground weapon systems and C4ISR
· ROKETSAN, which produces technologies for propelled ammunition, guided ammunition, advanced missile systems and ballistic solutions
· HAVELSAN, which provides software, training simulations and system integration
· ASPİLSAN and İŞBİR, which focus on power and energy systems (such as generators and batteries) for land operations
· TURKISH AEROSPACE, which provides solutions for aviation and space
In addition, MKEK, a weapon and ammunition manufacturer, and ASFAT, which includes military factories, are both affiliated with the state but can carry out commercial activities. Established by SSB for design and production, STM is just one another critical company. Other private enterprises that have made a name in the firearms sector include: Kale, Sarsılmaz, Canik Arms and YDS.
“We manufacture products and services to meet the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces with the coordination of the Presidency of Defense Industries,” said Naki Polat, president of SSI. “The Turkish Armed Forces demand products and services that have superior capabilities, which require very challenging tests and trials.”
Key success in land systems
The value of stringent testing by Turkish defense manufacturers can be seen in the success of their land warfare systems. Development of these systems is aimed to address specific threats seen in combat operations. For example, in order to respond to armed pickup trucks used by terrorists, Nurol Makina produced the completely armored weapon platform NMS, a vehicle with a speed of greater than 140 km/h.
Engineers have also incorporated combat experience into their unique design of vehicles such as the Rapid Deployable Amphibious Wet Gap Crossing System (OTTER AAAB).
“Land systems are an area where we see the value of our investments in a concrete way, where foreign dependency is minimized and we have a wide product range,” said Ismail Demir, president of the Turkish defense procurement authority (SSB). “In the new generation of main battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, tactical wheeled armored vehicles that can be adapted to different missions, unmanned ground vehicles and other land systems we have developed, NATO operation requirements and standards have been taken into consideration from the beginning of the projects.”
Providing defense beyond Turkey’s borders
With its success in producing high-quality weapons systems for its own military, Turkey has advanced to exporting weapons systems to other countries. It supplies systems to countries in the Middle East and Far East as well as within NATO. The Turkish defense industry focuses not only on meeting the demands of warfighters but also on developing new products to address these needs quickly. With its joint production and technology transfer efforts to Kazakhstan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, UAE, Azerbaijan and Indonesia; defense industry of Turkey have also became a technology provider to various countries.
Now, companies are developing systems to deal with myriad warfighting scenarios, ranging from suicide bombings to underground and tunnel warfare to guided anti-tank weapons and defense.
“Next-generation threats make it mandatory to develop next-generation solutions.” said Demir. “When we look at these threats, we see that the active protection system is important, and we are working to be a leading country in this field. We also strive to be a similar pioneer for light, medium and heavy-class unmanned ground vehicles that NATO allies may increasingly need in the future.”