Turkey reduces direct defense imports to 10 percent in 2011

Turkey reduces direct defense imports to 10 percent in 2011

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is shown after it was unveiled in a ceremony in Texas. Turkey has recently purchased 100 of these fighter jets from the US. (Photo: AP)

March 05, 2012, Monday/ 15:55:00/ SALİH SARIKAYA

Turkey was heavily reliant on defense imports at the beginning of the 2000s, but this has seemingly begun to change, with direct weapons purchases from foreign firms now constituting only 10 percent of the total needs of Turkey's defense industry.

According to a report prepared by the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM) in January 2012, only 10 percent of the country's defense industry needs were directly met by foreign companies in 2011, while most of its needs are now being met by local companies and joint consortiums.

Despite being one of the largest armies in NATO, Turkey used to be a technologically dependent country in the field of defense and made huge weapons purchases from its allies, including the US and Israel, straining its economy in the past.

As part of a new vigorous policy adopted over the past decade, national defense firms have been favored in weapons procurement to feed the country's defense industry, the report stated. Dependency on foreign technology decreased to below 50 percent over the past decade, which marked substantial progress in the field of defense in comparison to a decade ago, when 80-85 percent of Turkey's defense needs were met by foreign import.

The report also indicates that 49 percent of weapons purchased by Turkey came from foreign companies that had Turkish partners carrying out production, while 32 percent of its defense needs were met by domestic firms in 2011.

In recent years, Turkey has produced its own warship, tank and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), called Anka, to replace Israeli-made Herons.

UAVs are crucial in Turkey's fight against the terrorist the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey's Southeast and Anka is of grave importance considering the tense relations with Israel that now makes purchasing new Herons almost impossible. Turkey's Anka is expected to be operational by June 2012.

More money spent on research and development projects

As part of the goal to beef up the country's defense industry, a considerable amount of money has been spent on research and development projects where Turkish firms are either the sole producer or the main producer in a joint consortium.

Whereas in 2002 Turkey only spent $5.5 billion on defense research projects, $27.3 billion was spent in 2011 to facilitate innovation and technological development of the defense industry, the report states.

Local production became a condition in many contracts concerning weapons procurement, paving the way for enormous investments in this industry being made by domestic firms, which have also enjoyed financial backing from the state. Despite the 2001 economic crisis and its profound impact on unemployment and other social policies in the years that followed, no cuts have been made to defense spending in Turkey.

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