The Turkish defense industry, which has increased its export performance in recent years and aims to be among the top 10 in the world within five years, has recently signed the first export contract for the state-of-the-art unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) Bayraktar Akıncı, one of the company's newest products.
Istanbul Defense and Aerospace Cluster Association (SAHA) Chairperson of the Board and drone magnate Baykar General Manager Haluk Bayraktar, evaluating the performance of the sector in 2021 told Anadolu Agency (AA) Sunday that Turkey is yielding positive outcomes of its vision of nationalizing defense and aviation products step by step.
Bayraktar emphasized that the biggest success for the sector this year is the increase in exports achieved with this vision.
The defense and aerospace industry broke a record by exceeding $3 billion for the first time in 2021 and made exports totaling $3.22 billion (TL 43.3 billion).
“The important point here is the development of domestic added value in the export composition, increasing year by year,” Bayraktar said and added that while a strong and independent defense industry is indispensable for Turkey, it is important to strengthen defense and aviation exports to countries with whom Turkey has strategic relations.
"Beyond providing an economic gain, defense exports also provide a suitable basis for establishing strategic relations with the countries to which you export and for the development of all kinds of commercial and social activities with these countries. Therefore, it is of critical importance that the export volume of the sector is effective and sustainable," he said.
Stating that the sector's exports have increased significantly in the last 15 years on a dollar basis, Bayraktar informed that the export volume in the Turkish defense and aerospace sector has grown approximately seven times in dollar terms from 2006 to 2021. The sector also now constitutes around 1% of the world’s total defense and aerospace exports.
“This is a great success,” he said, “currently, 75% of the total exports in this field are still realized by the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China.”
Stating that the main goal of the industry is to increase its market share on a global scale and to be among the top 10 exporting countries, Bayraktar said, “If the export volume continues to develop with this trend, we will be among the top 10 countries in defense exports within five years.”
“Turkey, which has reduced its defense imports by 60% today, will reach an important point in the short and medium-term with export-oriented works, based on the increasing number of companies and projects in our sector,” Bayraktar commented.
He further noted that as SAHA Istanbul, they are endeavoring to develop and produce the main platforms, subsystems and critical components nationally together with 704 companies and to export them.
"We have supported 76 companies' products in creating demand abroad and increasing their competitiveness," he added.
Noting that in 2021 nearly 100 foreign companies participated in the fair, they will continue to ensure that domestic manufacturers meet with foreign companies this year at the SAHA EXPO 2022 fair that will be held on Oct. 25-28.
UAV, UCAV pioneers
Bayraktar emphasized that thanks to the steps and efforts taken toward developing domestic unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and UCAVs, both met the needs of the country as well as the technology being exported to the world.
He stated that export contracts were signed with 16 countries for Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs, which completed 420,000 flight hours.
"We have also completed the first export contract of Bayraktar Akıncı UCAV. Within the scope of the contract, we will deliver Bayraktar Akıncı UCAVs and ground systems in 2023. Baykar, which carries out all its projects with its own resources from the research and development (R&D) stage, generates more than 85% of its revenues from exports," he announced.
Bayraktar said, "thanks to these export revenues," Baykar creates R&D resources for platforms such as the high-tech Combat Unmanned Aerial System (MIUS) and Bayraktar TB3.
The Baykar official said that "not so many years ago, Turkey’s defense industry was an industry that looked like a contract manufacturer."
Value-added products developed by Turkey's defense industry, such as armored vehicles, aircraft, naval platforms, ammunition, UAVs and UCAVs – whose intellectual property and industrial rights completely belong to the country – are exported to 169 countries, including NATO and European Union member states.
“Therefore, we strive to establish our route and target with a national focus. We must increase the rate of domestic production in critical subsystems and components as well as the main platforms developed. With the increase in the number of localized products instead of products subject to export licenses, our industry will grow,” he said.
Bayraktar added that the defense and aerospace industry has led to the introduction of many inventions and technologies that make life easier in the fields of the internet, Global Positioning System (GPS) and medicine all over the world, and added that the development in these sectors heralds those technological solutions to contribute more to daily life soon.
"For example, the UAVs used for the early detection of forest fires today may have an active role in extinguishing these fires in the future with further studies being completed," he explained.