July/27/2012 - Ümit Enginsoy
With large defense projects on the agenda, Turkey will spend $8 billion in defense purchases, the country’s procurement office forecasts. This nearly doubles the current volume
Turkey will spend up to $8 billion in defense purchases as its exports will reach $2 billion in 2016, four years from now, according to a major estimation by the procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM).
The present figures are around half of that.
The expectations in the SSM’s updated 2012-2016 strategic program are realistic given the money Turkey would pay for expensive systems – such as the F-35s or the U-214 submarines from Germany – over the next few years, as well as the rapid increase in its exports mainly to Islamic countries, according to one defense analyst.
Turkey is in talks with four key foreign suppliers on a $4 billion Long Range Air and Missile Defense Systems project.
The country’s mainly exports armored vehicles of many sorts, rockets and other ammunition, as well as military electronics like radios, to more than 10 Islamic countries. It also sells aviation equipment as part of offset deals.
Fighter jet program delayed
Separately, Turkey has delayed a program to develop a domestic fighter aircraft for the Air Force nearly two years, the strategic document has revealed. “A conceptual design ... for the fighter aircraft will be completed by the end of 2014,” the SSM’s program said.
The defense minister at the time, Vecdi Gönül, announced on Dec. 14, 2010, that Turkey would build a fighter aircraft, to be constructed together with a friendly country or fully by itself, by the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic in 2023.
Gönül told reporters after a meeting of the Defense Industry Executive Committee that the SSM would start talks with the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the country’s main aerospace company, for a “conceptual design” of a fighter aircraft and a jet trainer to be built after the year 2020.
At the time, Gönül said the TAI would have two years for the conceptual design. He said Turkey’s newly designed fighter aircraft “would be a next-generation type, replacing the [U.S.-made] F-4Es and functioning well with the F-16 and the F-35 … This is effectively a decision for the making of Turkey’s first fighter aircraft.”
However, the new strategic document calls for the completion of the conceptual design by 2014.
“The original timetable must be wrong. It’s impossible to complete the conceptual design of a new aircraft in two years. The estimate is more reasonable now,” said one senior procurement official.
Turkey will buy around 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II aircraft built by a team led by the U.S. firm Lockheed Martin, but Gönül said at the time that they were planning to develop the new fighter with a partner other than the United States.
Turkey previously had South Korea in mind, but one South Korean official in Ankara said South Korea was at a more advanced stage than Turkey, and was currently developing its KF-X model with Indonesia. “We can’t say at this point whether it will be with South Korea or not,” Gönül said.