Turkey aims to increase defense exports, said Turkish Defense MinisterIsmet Yilmaz.
Speaking at Anadolu Agency's Editors' Desk on Wednesday, Yilmaz said Turkey’s defense industry turnover last year was over $5 billion and exports were worth more than $1.7 billion.
Minister Yilmaz also underlined the need of a serious study into local production of defense systems, which would allow the increase in exports.
“Turkey’s dependence on foreign armed forces and their defense production has decreased to less than 50 percent from 85-90 percent over 12-13 years,” he said, “We aim to make use of our own national production.”
Yilmaz added that this would increase Turkey’s defense exports.
Yilmaz gave the example of the Turkish SOM cruise missile, which uses an engine produced by France.
“We want to export the SOM missile, but France says ‘the engine is ours, and you cannot export it to a third country,'” he said. “You cannot sell your own product. All the material it consists of – software, engine, including a camera or even the tiniest system, which can make your own product five percent foreign, may prevent you from exporting it.”
“This is why we aim to have 100 percent national production in the defense industry and increase exports,” Yilmaz said.
Turkish defense producers aim to boost exports to $25 billion by 2023 from $1.6 billion last year, according to a statement by Turkey’s Undersecretary for Defense Industries in late March.
The top export items were aircraft, helicopter parts, engines, armored-land vehicles, speed boats, missiles, rockets, launching platforms, light weapons and electronic systems, including transmitters, simulators, sensors and software.
Ankara spent over $1 billion on defense, research and development in 2014. Turkey’s defense spending was 29.4 billion Turkish liras ($13.2 billion), this year, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry.
Turkey's ALTAY battle tanks
Turkey's main battle tank, known as ALTAY, was set for mass production starting from this year and will enter into use by the Turkish Armed Forces by 2018, while control tests still continue, said the Turkish defense minister.
Yilmaz stated that the Turkish tanks were produced with the technology of the years of 2000-2010, adding that the fire control, armor and other systems were new.
“Our priority is to begin mass production of the tanks and then to deliver them to the Turkish Armed Forces,” Yilmaz said.
Yilmaz added that Turkey's using its own tanks, would mean that other countries could feel safe to use them, as “the best reference is the Turkish Armed Forces, using products we manufacture,” he said.
Locally made ATAK helicopters
Eight of Turkey's first locally manufactured assault helicopters, ATAK, unveiled in 2014, were delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces this year, the minister said.
He stated that countries like Poland, Pakistan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have shown interest in the aircraft.
“Turkey is proud of its helicopters which have the the best capabilities in their class,” Yilmaz said.
Long-range air defense missiles
Defense Minister Yilmaz, asked about Turkey’s long-range air defense missiles, said that the best offer was given by China six years ago, when the tender was held.
“Offers came in from China, Russia, America and from a Franco-Italian joint venture named Eurosam,” he said, “Russia was excluded from the agenda due to its bid, which was $9.9 billion, while China’s was about $3.5 billion.”
The minister stated the project had been delayed due to the lack of written confirmation from China, but said Turkey was ready at any moment to sign a contract in its favor.
Turkey plans to spend around $70 billion on military equipment until 2023, when the country will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of modern republic.