‘Turkey can proudly say that it has a growing and ambitious defence industry that aims to be a game-changing player in the global defence market’
The first initiative to establish a defence industry in Turkey dates back to the Ottoman era. Standing strong up until the 17th century, the defence industry couldn’t keep up with the technological developments taking place in Europe since the 18th century and lost its impact entirely starting at the time of World War I.
Due to adverse internal and external factors, instead of improving the local defence industry, Turkey depended on foreign aid and met its defence requirements through and in the framework of NATO after World War II and during the period of Cold War.
Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM in Turkish words) has been established in 1985 to be responsible of developing a defence industry with the national resources.
SSM has published Strategic Plans periodically and has turned towards developing and implementing strategies and methods for the development of the defence industry in the mission to meet the system needs of the Turkish Armed Forces by means of local companies.
With the new millenium importance of the subject was recognized and each and every level of bureaucracy took important steps towards supporting defence industry exports. From 2006 onwards, local firms started to be utilized as the main contractors in defence procurements.
Within this framework, significant headway has been attained for national naval shipbuilding program by establishing Turkish Navy DPO (Design Project Office) in the year of 2003. First step was to design an indigenous surface combat ship in this office and the second, to build it within a national consensus.
MILGEM (stands for National Ship in Turkish) is the first and the biggest step for all industry in Turkey and a national challenge to the world naval shipbuilding market
During the 2010’s, indigenous design programs have been emphasized under the responsibility of the domestic main contractors in order to ensure that critical technologies and design capabilities are met domestically to the maximum extent.
In this respect, Turkey’s overseas dependence has been significantly reduced through the provision of these programs, which will prepare the TSK for the combative environment of the future, gain competence in defence and security technologies and develop platforms and systems that will gain technological superiority domestically. With primarily the MILGEM Ship, many systems, subsystems and weapon systems are the outcomes of projects that reduce dependency of the defence industry.
There are more to say about the platforms which has been delivered to Turkish Navy. Today; MILGEM is navigating all over Mediterranean and Aegean Sea as a game-changing platform, New Type Patrol Boats are patrolling in territorial waters all over the country during all day and nights, Submarine Rescue Mother Ship is attending an important NATO Exercise as Flag Ship and gathers all praises from the navies of participant nations and then turn back her real missions and is detecting a commercial ship which was sunk to 90m in Black Sea, conducting too many high-risk diving operations to remove the deceased bodies from the ship and get them to the surface.
Please refer to the Project Table in this article to see what was happening in the naval shipbuilding industry in Turkey since 2010.
Models in Modern Times:
When we look the future projection of naval shipbuilding programs which was shaped by the strategic plans of Turkish Navy, we see that the projects are getting more and more complex and hard to handle by all means. So the industry created its own models to be able to handle this situation.
In the modern history of naval shipbuilding we are used to see especially ¨consortium model¨ for the complex and big scale projects which the risk management has been shared by the participants. So Turkey has initiated such a model in its first domestic frigate project which will be the first naval combat ship to be builded in private sector shipyards.
Three leading shipyards in naval projects have decided to bid the Istanbul Class Frigate tender as a consortium. So AIS Consortium has been established by Sedef, ADİK and İstanbul Shipyard in 2016 to build the first indigenous frigate of Turkey.
RFI and RFQ phases of the program has been completed and AIS is now waiting for the official announcement from the government to start the contract negotiations in this year and to start the building activities next year.
TAIS Consortium (Turkish Associated International Shipyards) has been announced in 2017 which was established by the owners of the top 5 leading shipyards of Turkey with the objective to offer expert and innovative solutions in navy shipbuilding for demanding customers all over the world.
TAIS is aiming foreign sales and directing its efforts to be able to participate in export projects.
Sedef, ADİK, İstanbul, Selah and Sefine Shipyards are now carrying the flag to the world seas as a competetive player in the global naval shipbuilding market.
There are too many projects in future projection of SSM to be able to meet Turkish Navy Strategical Plans. But 3 of them has to be mentioned here with some basic words.
Anti Air Warfare Program
Turkish Navy DPO is about to complete Anti Air Warfare Frigate (TF-2000) design which will be the most significant platform of Turkish Navy ever since.
The platform will carry ÇAFRAD (Stands for Multi Function Phased Array Radar in Turkish) for anti-air warfare capabilities which is designed and developed by ASELSAN and Turkish Navy together.
ÇAFRAD suite can be integrated into single mast structure with Electronic Warfare Suite, Navigation/LPI Radars and Active Communications Antennas or can be distributed along the ship superstructure.
Turkish Navy has started a National Submarine Building Program recently trusting its past experiences about submarine building and modernization projects.
MILDEN conceptual design phase has been started in 2017 with a series of conferences which was participated by universities, design and engineering companies, industry leaders, Turkish Navy and SSM.
The first boat of the program is planning to be delivered in 2030.
TAIS has officially announced that they are making preparations to establish a company for manufacturing diesel engines which was designed indigenously. The feasability studies and assesments for implementations are going on but the one thing everyone is agree on that Turkey has the necessarry engineering infrastructure for manufacturing diesel engines for both marine and naval use.
This program is also recognized as a ¨must¨ by the industry leaders to be able to reach the level of 100 percent in national resources in a naval ship project.
Within this strategical approach implemented by SSM and additional R&D funds by the government, a lot of local companies with different engineering capabilities has been shown up in naval shipbuilding industry. All companies have reached the level of meeting certification, quality, ILS, training and all other requirements of naval shipbuilding programs in 10 years.
Today, Turkish Defence Industry has hundreds of companies which is capable of suppliying thousands of products on a large diversity.
One Last Word
There are always a lot of things may be told about the national defence industry approaches or the models which is being used, but one last thing to say beyond all and beyond all allies in global scale is that 100 percent level of national resources on the defence programs is the key for a real independence of a country.
So Turkey is on the way now with all its historical, geographical, demographical and geo-strategical force and with its engineering infrastructure to be able to reach that goal.
After a couple of decades Turkish Defence Industry will surely be one of the major players in global market and a game-changing actor in the World Seas.