Ankara, Turkey – Turkey’s growing defense industry is a cornerstone of Turkey’s independent and peaceful foreign policy for two core reasons. The industry steers attention to Turkey’s Mavi Vatan and peaceful foreign policy.
US has targeted its traditional ally Turkey by imposing unjust CAATSA sanctions for purchasing the Russian S400 missile system. Turkey is pursuing hydrocarbon energy ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean, expanding its sphere of influence in Libya, and pushing Operation Peace Spring in Syria. Hence, the growing defense industry gives Turkey greater maneuverability in its foreign policy by ensuring less reliance on arms imports and more autonomy.
Turkey’s defense industry has boomed in the last decade. In 2010, Turkey had one company on the list of Top 100 Global Defense Companies. Presently it has seven—more companies than Israel, Russia, Sweden and Japan combined. Turkey’s share of arms imports from 2015 to 2019 decreased by 48 percent compared to the preceding five-year period.
The country has transitioned from importing 70 percent of its military hardware to 30 percent. Concurrently, the Turkish arms industry grew from $1 billion in 2002 to $11 billion in 2020, more than $3 billion of which were exports, making Turkey the fourteenth largest global defense exporter. The state has invested $60 billion in defense projects, and given Greek-Turkish tensions over energy rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey has established an ambitious navy to match the Hellenic.
Moreover, Turkey is one of only twenty-two states manufacturing armed drones, adding another dimension to its regional military might. Turkey’s desire to expand and develop the domestic arms industry has become a national project. Turkey issued a presidential decree on July 10, 2018, placing the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSB) under the presidency’s direct control and renamed the SSB the Presidency of Defense Industries. This—Turkey’s strategic political ambition—is arguably the greatest driver behind Turkey’s growing defense industry.
Turkey’s defense industry has transformed into a powerful export industry, as it exported $2.2 billion in 2018, effectively making it the 14th largest arms exporter in the world. Turkey’s defense industry is as much about projecting an image of power to the global society. Challenges to the continued boom in the industry are a testament to this.
Turkey wants to use its growing domestic arms industry to wrestle free of traditional allies, the industry remains highly robust ,and secures the production of engines. Turkey’s research and development is simply sophisticated enough for its main prestige projects.
The Turkish defense industry has grown exponentially, this trajectory will continue in the future. Moreover, creating an indigenous defense industry has been a major global political win for Turkey, and for this reason alone, it will most likely continue to develop. It may be politically it remains a priority. Turkey can now project the image of growing Turkish military might, to the global society. While the industry’s growth has highlighted greater external independence, the connotations of being a military manufacturer give Turkey more domestic freedom to pursue a peaceful foreign policy fit with that of a major military power. Growing investment in high technology development is a promising sign for Turkey’s defense industry.