TBY talks to Muharrem Dörtkaşlı, President & CEO of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), on the prospects for the ANKA UAV and the Hürkuş training plane.

Muharrem Dörtkaşlı
Muharrem Dörtkaşlı was born in Çankırı in 1961. He graduated from the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Middle East Technical University in 1983. Dörtkaşlı started working at Turkish Aircraft Industries (TUSAŞ) in 1991 as a Program Control Office Leader, and then served as Deputy General Manager between June 1997 and March 2003. He was promoted as the General Manager in March 2003, and continued in this post until the dissolution of the company. He is a Board Member of TAI, which entrusted him as the President and CEO of the company in October 2005. Since then, he has continued his duty as the President and CEO of TAI. He is a Member of the Board of Defense Industry Manufacturers Organization (SaSaD) and also the Vice-Chairman of Turkish-US Business Council of DEİK, and Head of the Defense-Security Commission.

Turkey's first indigenous medium-altitude, high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the ANKA, is about to enter mass production. What are TAI's future plans regarding UAV development?

The ANKA medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) class UAV was designed by Turkish engineers and manufactured with the contribution of local industries. The UAV platform and all related subsystems are customized in accordance with Turkish Armed Forces requirements, and it is ready for global market opportunities. A serial production phase agreement for the ANKA program was signed between SSM and TAI on October 25, 2013. Despite being a serial production contract, there are changes in the ANKA design, making it more attractive for local and international customers. Currently, there is interest from a number of countries, and we are keen to take a share of the $45 billion worldwide UAV market over the next 10 years (of which 33% is expected to be spent on MALE UAVs). TAI's key target markets could be listed as countries in the Middle East and the Gulf, as well as North Africa, the Asia-Pacific, and South America. To expand exports, TAI is seeking further opportunities with its allies. Industrial cooperation is becoming increasingly important in global market development activities. We are open to discussion with all interested parties.

TAI's rising exports account for roughly half of Turkey's total exports in the defense and aerospace sector. What are your current primary export destinations, and which markets do you plan on entering in the future?

The aerospace and defense industries are capital intensive, but create a high level of value-added for the Turkish economy. Between 2005 and 2012, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of Turkey's total exports was 9.51%, whereas Turkey's defense exports rose 17.95%. In 2012, Turkey's total exports were around $150 billion, where close to $1.3 billion came from the defense and aerospace industry, and TAI plays a key role within this framework. In line with our vision of becoming “…a world brand aerospace company with indigenous products and global competitive power," our main export strategy is to penetrate the international market through high-value indigenous products such as the ANKA, Hürkuş, and ATAK.

What are your export plans regarding the new Hürkuş training plane?

Hürkuş is a program that we are particularly proud of. It represents the ingenious development of a basic trainer, something like the PC-21 class of the Swiss Air Force, the T-6 Texan II in the US, or the KAI KT-1 for the Koreans. However, the one we have has a more powerful engine. At 1,600 hp, it is more powerful than our competitors; only the Swiss have a similar level of power. One of the features of that aircraft is that we have developed it under the aegis of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). And we purposely pursued certification to have the export option. Its development is complete, but the flight tests are ongoing. We expect that with the interest shown by several countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and the Turkish government's order, it will become a popular aircraft. I want to emphasize that the standards of the Turkish Air Force are very exacting, whereby any platform that you develop for the internal customer is a good benchmark for international counterparts.