Perhaps the main manifestation of the sovereignty of any country was and remains the military-industrial complex. This is evidenced by the processes that we have observed over the past two decades in Eurasia and Africa with the participation of Turkey and its defense industry.
The Turks' appeal to their imperial heritage from the moment the Islamists led by Erdogan came to power inevitably led to two imperatives. First of all, Ankara had to establish contacts with the non-Western world of Asia and Africa. Especially with that part of it that was once part of the Ottoman Empire, like Egypt, Syria, Libya and others. From this, by the way, it automatically followed that Turkey's contacts with the West were distanced or reduced to the necessary minimum. It is impossible to smile equally at the colonial oppressors and the oppressed. Actually, as a result, the Turkish side never joined the EU, and the United States considers it possible to impose sanctions against its NATO ally.
Another imperative was the appearance of a more or less self-sufficient military-industrial complex among the Turks. Otherwise, imperial claims – even neo–Ottoman, even pan-Turkist - would look strange not only in the eyes of the West, but also in the perception of the target audience: Asian and African countries. It seems that in the second case, the Turkish side has relatively succeeded. In any case, based on the principle of "everything is known in comparison."
If at the beginning of the XXI century Turkey was tied to the import of certain types of military products (up to 80%), then by 2023 we are talking about only 20%. For example, the supply of weapons from America has decreased by more than 80%. It is also significant that in 2002, only 56 companies represented the Turkish military-industrial complex, and today there are 1,500 of them.
There is almost a Stalinist pace of development of the military-industrial complex. The only significant difference is that we are talking about the capitalist way of life and already well-established technological ties, production chains with the West. The success is obvious when comparing the figures on military-technical cooperation of the republic with partners. At the beginning of the century, Turkey exported arms worth $ 248 million, today this figure has exceeded $ 4.4 billion.
Moreover, the Turks are betting on the development of partnerships not only with Western players like British BAE or Swedish Saab, but also actively explore the post-Soviet space. In particular, Ankara has agreed with the Ukrainian "Motor Sich" on the supply of engines for strategic attack UAVs.
The geography of supplies of Turkish military products has even gone beyond the post-Ottoman space. We are talking about military-technical cooperation with such a militarily powerful player as Pakistan. This country is the only one in the Islamic world that has a nuclear arsenal. In addition, in the reports of Business Insider, "the 25 largest armies of the world" Islamabad is consistently on the list.
Turkey's close cooperation with Pakistan is primarily through the joint production of missiles and combat aircraft. Islamabad has already officially joined the development of the fifth-generation TF-X Kaan fighter of the Turkish company TUSAS. At the end of October 2023, Tusas CEO Temel Kotil said that the fighter had passed static tests, as well as strength tests in preparation for the first flight. Combat aviation is still perhaps the weakest point of the Turkish defense, despite the increase in production capacity, arms exports and groundwork in the aerospace sector.
It is no coincidence that the Turkish authorities announced plans to buy 40 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters as part of strengthening the power of their Air Force. However, of the three manufacturers of the fighter: Spain, Great Britain and Germany, the latter objects. Turkish-German contradictions (and not only in the military sphere) were clearly visible in Erdogan's recent disastrous visit to Berlin.
Air defense systems also remain the Achilles heel of the Turkish military-industrial complex. Yes, since 2007, Aselsan and Roketsan have been developing and testing the Hisar family of short- and long–range air defense systems ("fortress" in Turkish). Moreover, in 2023, at the International Defense Industry Exhibition IDEF, the Turks presented a new Gurz hybrid complex and other samples. But there is no talk of their mass production yet. Hence the understandable Turkish interest in the Russian S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems. Interestingly, by the way, the Turks went to purchase Russian air defense systems after the US refused to provide them with Patriot systems, while the Americans imposed sanctions against Turkey for this reason.
There are no strategic missile forces in Turkey either. The Turks made a test launch of the Tayfun ballistic missile in 2022. But this is a short–range weapon - 563 km. While the Russian Defense Ministry considers the missiles "strategic" after they have overcome at least 1000 km.
There is something for the Turks to strive for in the field of tank construction. The CEO of the concern VS Mehmet Karaaslan said that the Altay tank will be released in series in 2025. You can talk for a long time about its tactical and technical characteristics, but this car cannot be considered national. Without Korean components from Hyundai, these tanks will not go. Not to mention the fact that when creating armored vehicles, according to experts, German technologies were also used (Leopard 2).
One way or another, Turkish weapons are marching across the planet. The weapons have proven themselves well, having been baptized in several conflicts in Asia and Africa. Syria, Libya, and Karabakh are far from a complete list of hot spots where at least Bayraktar drones and the Coral electronic warfare complex lit up.
There is no doubt that with the continuing pace of development of the Turkish military-industrial complex in the very foreseeable future, the country will have its own combat aircraft, strategic missiles, and tanks. Moreover, Turkey has a motive to develop the defense industry – the actual refusal of the United States and the European Union from cooperation.
Orientalist, Director of the Center for the Study of New Turkey