Jan. 27, 2015

İsmet Yılmaz


İsmet Yılmaz

Minister of National Defense, Turkey

"We are working hard to be one of the major global suppliers."


İsmet Yilmaz graduated from Istanbul Technical University’s Maritime Academy in 1982 and from Istanbul University Faculty of Law in 1987. He received an MSc Degree from the World Maritime University in Sweden and a Master’s Degree from Marmara University’s Institute of Social Sciences. He also holds a PhD in Private Law from Ankara University’s Institute of Social Sciences. After serving as Undersecretary of Maritime Affairs from 2002, he also served as Vice-President of the Executive Board of Türk Telekom. He served as Minister of Transport from 2007. He became Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2007. He was elected as a member of parliament for Sivas of the Justice and Development Party in 2011 and was appointed as Minister of National Defense.

What is the importance of cyber security across industries and what are the opportunities for the cyber defense industry of Turkey?

Cyber security has to be considered from two perspectives, first on our own information system's requirements. Secondly, and more importantly, it must be considered in terms of the requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces. For its own requirements, the Information Systems Department has been regenerated from scratch and staff has received a great deal of training on handling threats. Also, the Ministry has updated the internal regulations applied to the information systems and Ministry staff. We have also initiated an exercise applied to numerous governmental agencies to assess our current preparedness regarding the threat cyber attacks. In that exercise, several cyber attacks of different types have been carried out to test the performance of the security systems currently used. We have evaluated the results and taken the necessary actions. We are aware that this process is an issue that has to be progressed and developed continuously. From the perspective of the Turkish Armed Forces, we have initiated several projects as well as feasibility studies, and also held numerous conferences and workshops. For instance, this issue was taken seriously at the highest levels in 2008 by the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, which undertook a Network-Enabled Capability (NEC) Feasibility study. For this study, about 25 academics from METU and 10 engineers from a private company worked together with the Turkish Armed Forces to devise a roadmap for NEC for Turkey. Now, Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) follows that roadmap and has undertaken three additional projects with its own resources to increase awareness within military agencies. We have also held several workshops and conferences, which brought the related sides of this issue together. Such collaborations and mutual workshops provide substantial opportunities for the cyber security environment. The Turkish Armed Forces has a separate command for cyber warfare and we are closely working with it. As a result, I can say that we are aware that cyber warfare issues have to be handled carefully through a plan and in advance.

What is the Ministry's strategy to boost exports from the defense industry?

We are working hard to be one of the major global suppliers with a strategy based on high value added, high-tech products and services, which define our roadmap for the coming decade. We are willing to be one of the important members of the defense league with our strategic approach, political will and determination, national coordination, and cooperation among relevant institutions and bodies, quickly developing know-how, a highly talented R&D labor force, growing companies, high-quality products, increasing PR and sales efforts, as well as our political, economic, and historical links with many regions and countries around the world. In the scope of the 2012-2016 Strategy Document objectives of the SSM, we will focus on the endeavors to ensure the health of the defense sector. Moreover, the SSM will guide the SMEs and suppliers represented in the defense industry in order to develop their capabilities related to the program management and levels of technology. As has been acknowledged for many years, the offset has been implemented and executed under the defense industry projects. For the defense industry projects, contractors are obliged to commit an Industrial Participation/Offset (IP/O) obligation amounting to at least 70% of the main contract value, within the framework of the IP/O Directive published in 2011. To emphasize the SMEs' importance, the contractors are held to the 2011 IP/O directive Category-A (Industrial Participation) requirements of at least 30% of the Industry/SME share and as a share of at least 15% of SMEs. For the proposals to be submitted in this respect, greater use of the local industry, especially SMEs and suppliers, is primarily promoted to develop the domestic defense industry. After this point, the real challenge we are facing in terms of SMEs is the limited volume of the domestic defense and aerospace market. Therefore, international cooperation activities are becoming more important. We think that Turkish companies are the most successful in the Middle East, the Gulf region, and also Southeast Asia. On the other hand, we are continuously focused on South America, and to a certain extent North America, but that is a very hard market to penetrate. Furthermore, we are trying to improve our impression in some European countries. For example, for our indigenous fighter jet program, we are looking for a working partner from Europe, not because we are afraid to develop the project ourselves, but more because it will allow us in the future to export it more easily. We have the same approach in some other programs. We have partnerships with Germany in the battle tank program for example, and also with Korea because we think that this can provide wider marketing arena. The Turkish Armed Forces' reputation is excellent and recognized worldwide for its expertise. This, of course, gives a significant edge on the international market, especially regarding indigenous developments. Indeed, international buyers are usually wary of indigenous development, but if the Turkish Armed Forces are buying it, it lends an air of confidence and a guarantee of product quality as our armed forces have hundreds of years of experience. Furthermore, they know that the Turkish Armed Forces will not accept any system that is less than 100% perfect. We could cite many examples of this, such as the verification process of the T129 helicopter being extended because of a discussion about scratches on glass, or where the pilots put their feet when not depressing the pedals. This attention to detail is an excellent assurance to would-be buyers, as a weapons system being accepted and used by the Turkish Armed Forces is an internationally recognized stamp of quality. Moreover, most of the countries we partner with on our products also look for the training expertise of the Turkish Armed Forces. If you buy an attack helicopter, then you are under the umbrella of Turkish Armed Forces aviators, who will train and assist you with logistics organization.

What is your assessment of Turkey's ability to create an armored fighting vehicle (AFV)?

Turkey started production activities for the M113 armored fighting vehicle (AFV) under license in 1988 with FNSS Defense Systems in Ankara. More than 2000 AFVs in different configurations have been produced and delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces through contracts between the SSM and FNSS. These vehicles are still operational today. Since then, FNSS has improved its capabilities in design and was able to develop its own wheeled and tracked Armored Combat Vehicles. Pars 6x6 and Pars 8x8 are two well-known wheeled armored fighting vehicles developed by FNSS. In addition to those AFVs, FNSS also developed special-purpose vehicles such as the Armored Amphibious Assault Bridge and Amphibious Armored Combat Earthmover under contracts signed with SSM. Another domestic capability has been developed with OTOKAR through production of Land Rover Defender tactical vehicles under license. Just like FNSS, OTOKAR has also improved its capabilities during this time, and has been able to design and develop its own wheeled and tracked Armored Combat Vehicles, such as the Cobra 4x4, Cobra-II 4x4, Arma 6x6, Arma 8x8, Tulpar tracked AFV, and the ALTAY Main Battle Tank. ALTAY is one of the most sophisticated high-tech armored vehicles on the market, which demonstrates that we are one of the nine or 10 Main Battle Tank developers in the world. Another example of the armored vehicle development capability exists at BMC, which developed Kirpi Mine Resistant Ambush Protect (MRAP) vehicles, where more than 500 vehicles have already been delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces. Those vehicles have been combat proven in many mine and IED attacks to date. In summary, over the past decade, we have reached the capability to design, develop, and produce any kind of armored vehicle to meet the requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces, Turkish Police, and other armies around the world.

What is your vision of defense affairs in Turkey?

The Turkish Defense Industry policy has been restructured and experienced a strategic transformation over the past 10 years. We are now able to design and manufacture our own critical technology defense systems. When we compare this state of affairs with the constraints on manufacturing and assembling in the past, this can be seen as a historic change. More than 10 years ago, 80% of our defense industry was dependent on foreign technology, but today, by mobilizing Turkey's engineering and production capabilities, it has been transformed into a structured national industry with more than 1,000 companies, SMEs, and the participation of research organizations and universities. Today, our defense industry has reached an annual production capacity of almost $5 billion with an export capacity of $1.4 billion. It receives Turkey's largest investment in R&D with $773 million in annual R&D expenditures. By removing the barriers and obstacles blocking our defense industry, with the necessary encouragement given, the needs and requirements of our Armed Forces are being addressed by local industry. In this process, nearly 100 military ships and patrol vessels have been produced and delivered by Turkish shipyards. Today, our navy is on the way to becoming entirely locally supplied. Furthermore, our new breakthroughs in the fields of frigates and submarines will continue unabated. Our aviation sector, which has been at a standstill for years, came back to life when our first National aircraft, the HÜRKUŞ, designed in accordance with the European Aviation Safety Authority certification standards, took off in 2013. Moreover, the developments of our indigenous helicopter project, which will meet military and civilian helicopter requirements, have been started and our national fighter aircraft conceptual design has been completed. After conducting a wide range of studies on UAVs, we decided to create a large UAV family with joint production to fulfill our own needs and to target the needs of foreign markets. The maritime patrol aircraft developed by our own capable national industry has also been added to our inventory and AWACS aircraft are scheduled to start operations over the next few months. The armored vehicle requirements of the Land Forces will continue to be developed under indigenous production, and as a result of large investments in new generation rocket and missile technologies, cruise missiles, anti-tank missiles, and guided missiles are now being manufactured indigenously with our own technologies. Furthermore, studies and research has been initiated for the establishment of our own satellite-launch center. Our first national observation satellite, Göktürk-1, is scheduled to be launched in 2015. It will have a higher image resolution than the Göktürk-2, our first satellite, which has been successfully launched and tested. Our military observation and communications satellite systems will, therefore, be completely designed and manufactured in Turkey. Moreover, to eliminate the legacy of past neglect regarding air defense, huge steps have also been taken. The first launch trial of the HİSAR missile, developed for low- and medium-altitude air defense, was successfully completed in October. And in the international tender opened for the long-range air defense system based on co-production and technology transfer, the most cost-efficient solution was selected for our country. For the first time in our history, we are also planning to introduce our first national infantry rifle, which is being manufactured with the latest technology. This means that the weapons used by our troops will not be under foreign production or license. In 2023, when we celebrate the centenary of our Republic, we plan to: have our first national fighter aircraft; to launch locally designed satellites; to produce national submarines; and to put into service air defense systems. In this direction, we have taken the necessary decisions and initial steps. In the environment we live in, we have a wide range of security challenges that require defense technologies, and we should have, as our main objective, the meeting of our requirements through national resources. The Turkish Armed Forces will enjoy the wholehearted support of our country's industry, engineers, design capability, and production power, and our national defense will be based on our national strength.

“We are working hard to be one of the major global suppliers."

© The Business Year - January 2015