Defense industry and sovereignty

China stand at the International Defence Exhibition Conference in Abu Dhabi
Chinese military technology at the International Defence Exhibition Conference.

Often, national defense industry is referred to as defense technological and industrial base (DTIB). This industry is born out of a nation’s political will. Its goal to be autonomous in the procurement of military equipment. It enables a nation to ensure its defense. This capability includes three levels: Weapon systems development and production, equipment support, and human support. Having such an industry is necessary if a state wants to demonstrate that it can have a say on the international stage. National defense industry also contributes to a country’s reputation.

Building a DTIB represents a large investment, but it can yield a lot of money. An initial return comes from dual technologies used in both civilian and weapons systems. Indeed, patents can be used to benefit nonmilitary activity. Once the weapon system is validated and tested, it can be marketed to other states through partnerships. Nations that have not chosen a defense industry are then potential customers. Few nations have a full DTIB. The U.S., Russia, China, and some EU nations have a DTIB that contributes to their power.

Altay T1 battle tank representative for Turkey's defence industry
Turkey has put a lot of effort in the development of its own tanks.
Here, the Altay T1 battle tank, a recognized equipment.

Turkey’s DTIB is growing rapidly and has a variety of recognized equipment such as the TB2 drone, the Altay T1 battle tank, and the T-129 Atak attack helicopter. Export projects for this equipment are currently being negotiated with Arab countries, but so far only the TB2 drone can be considered a success.
Turkey was heavily dependent on arms imports until the early 2000s. According to a report by the Savunma Sanayii Başkanlığı (SSB), a policy favoring Turkish defense companies was pursued for ten years. Reliance on foreign technology has fallen to less than 50 percent over the past decade. About ten years ago, Turkey still imported 80-85% of its weapons.
Since then, significant progress has been recorded in the defense sector. For example, direct arms purchases from foreign companies now account for only 10 percent of the total needs of Turkey’s defense industry. Local production has become a condition in many arms purchase contracts, paving the way for huge investments. It should be noted that the national industry has received financial support from the state.

However, the Turkish DTIB does not cover the full range of weapon systems required for its defense. This is the case with ground-to-air defense. The existing equipment is outdated and no longer up to date. Since the Turkish defense industry does not have the capabilities to develop and produce such a system itself, Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to purchase a surface-to-air defense system from a foreign producer. Turkey chose the Russian S400 because it had several options. This decision was not without consequences, as the contract closed the door to the delivery of American F35s, which were also urgently needed to renew the aging fleet of fighters. In this matter, Turkey has forgotten that it is in a coalition and that there are rules that must be followed. Turkey’s domestic policy is focused on industrial sovereignty and seeks to diversify its customers. This does not allow it to negotiate with a country that has annexed Crimea and militarily supports the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

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