ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has launched a new military satellite that is "20 percent Turkish" and will help the country in its anti-terror efforts.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with several other top Turkish officials, witnessed the launch of the satellite, Gokturk-1, during a ceremony at the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in the capital Ankara on Monday.
The Gokturk-1 is a high-resolution, optical Earth-observation satellite for civilian and military applications. It can scan high-resolution images (up to 0.8 meters) and features an onboard X-band digital imaging system to handle data compression, storage and downloading.
Speaking at the ceremony, Erdogan said Turkey was now targeting more advanced and more indigenous satellites. "With a scanning capability up to 0.5-meter (1.64-foot) resolution, we will benefit from the satellite in wide areas ranging from damage assessment after natural disasters to harvest forecasts," the president said in televised comments. "Today, Turkey's external dependence in the defense industry is half the amount of what it used to be 14 years ago. Domestic participation rate in this satellite [industry] is 20 percent."
Security officials said that the Gokturk-1 would be widely used in Turkey's fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The fighting with the PKK has claimed nearly 40,000 lives since 1984 when the group launch a military offensive for a Kurdish homeland.
Having already spent about $1 billion on satellite programs, Ankara wants to "nationalize" the satellite business. The Turkish government aims to build the first fully indigenous Turkish satellite by 2019. The country wants to invest more on "software, design and platform."
Key local players in the ambitious satellite programs are military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey's biggest defense firm; Tubitak Uzay, the state's scientific research space department; TAI; and CTech, a software company.
Turkey wants to be operating a fleet of 10 satellites by 2023.
In October 2015, Turkey launched the satellite 4B. Turkey spent $550 million for both 4A and 4B, including launching. Those satellites were foreign-made.
Turkey plans to spend $500 million for 5A and 5B, which will have "some" local content. For those two satellites, the local contractors are Aselsan and TAI. The local satellite, 6B, will cost Turkey 545 million liras (US $160 million), according to officials.
In 2015, TAI launched a $112 million Space Systems Integration and Test Center (USET in its Turkish acronym) where more than one satellite of up to 5 tons could be assembled, integrated and tested.
TAI said the company hopes the new center will cater to international space programs in addition to Turkey's national programs. All satellites or space-bound payload/systems to be developed by Turkish industry will be tested and integrated at USET, ending Turkey's dependence on foreign facilities.
Currently, the military's space-based assets are geared more toward ISR missions, but Turkey has been dependent on other nations to launch its satellites.
Burak Ege Bekdil is the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.