Over the last decade, local defense companies have expanded beyond the domestic market to become international arms exporters, with a rapidly growing clientele in Southeast Asia.
Turkish military helicopters maneuver during the Turkish Army’s annual winter military exercises near the eastern Turkish city of Kars, Turkey, February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
The Turkish Defense Industry saw its arms exports rise 170% between 2014 and 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. This is the direct result of decades of investment and R&D that has helped Turkey’s defense companies fine-tune products to grow beyond domestic security demands.
Well-established arms manufacturers are developing their export markets by appealing to international clients in Africa, Asia, and beyond with high-quality arms that tend to be more affordable than those from competing weapons exporters. Turkish weapons have particularly attracted interest in countries like Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, helping the industry diversify beyond traditional customers in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.
“In the coming period of 10 years, Turkey will become one of the leading defense exporters in the Asia Pacific region,” Arda Mevlütoğlu, a defense industry analyst, told the Nikkei Asian Review, noting that Turkey’s long-held ambition to create an indigenous arms industry has been achieved, and the nation is increasingly looking for opportunities outside its borders.
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is currently finalizing the sale of 30 multi-purpose ATAK helicopters to Pakistan. The USD1.5-billion deal, when confirmed, will be the largest sale to date for the Turkish defense industry.
At the same time, defense electronics maker ASELSAN is delivering remote-controlled turret guns to the Malaysian coast guard as well as 5,000 night-vision devices to the Philippines army.
Such developments have helped Turkey increase weapon sales from USD245 million in 2017 to USD364 million in 2018. Behind the rapid expansion is the country’s streamlined production and export of arms. In the last five years, Turkish weapons companies have exported aviation equipment, high-tech defense vehicles, and armed personnel carriers.