Turkey's defense industry is still budding in relative terms; however, with the production of the first domestically designed UAV about to commence, springtime may be here.

Haluk Bayraktar
General Manager
Baykar Makina
Aziz Sipahi
General Manager
Vestel Defense and AYESAŞ

How is Turkey using UAVs to elevate its aerospace industry to compete globally?

HALUK BAYRAKTAR If we were to try to take the same route that the US, EU, or other developed countries with 100 years of aviation experience, it would be impossible to catch up with them. With UAVs, however, there is a chance of a paradigm shift for us, and one that will provide Turkey with cutting-edge technology and a brand known across the world. My team and I firmly believe in this vision.

AZİZ SİPAHİ The maturity of any defense and aerospace industry is measured by the ratio of indigenous systems to the overall systems inventory, which, of course, helps countries reduce their dependence on imports. Indigenous systems are important regardless of the platform, and have a significant effect on building technological know-how in vertical segments. Besides, we should not forget that you cannot market a system or a platform you do not own. The Turkish defense and aerospace industry has still a long way to go, and cannot develop everything indigenously. Here comes the significance of UAVs that we have already come to a level of designing and developing our own indigenous UAVs. Having your own UAV technology allows you to make any modifications required for sale domestically or to other countries, which is essential in terms of addressing different operation scenarios. You must have the ability to adapt your UAV software, and also change and modify hardware according to the specific user requirements.

Does Turkey have a promising future as a world leader in UAVs?

HB Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) has been tendering major contracts specifically related to platform-level projects such as helicopters, fighter jets, and UAVs. National companies have been targeted, and this is having a positive effect on the growth of the sector. By working on entire platforms rather than just components, we are significantly raising our international selling potential, as end-users want finished products. Despite our modest start-up size, we are a growing company. We began with the mini-UAV, through which we achieved the capability and experience to build larger models. Turkey is contracting its main platform business to local companies so that these companies can develop. If you look at other companies, for example in European countries, the ratio of indigenous to foreign parts in any system is more than 60%-70% and Turkey is now at 50%. In the defense business, self-sufficiency is important in order to play a powerful regional role. For example, we once depended on Israel for military equipment and initially purchased UAVs from their defense companies, to the tune of 10 Heron UAVs or 20 platforms. We cannot be a serious regional force if we are doing this.

AS Our first objective is to meet the targets of our armed forces and supply them with our tactical UAVs to their upmost satisfaction. Our next step will be taken beyond Turkey as we plan to promote our UAVs in neighboring countries as well further afield. We are working on a range of UAVs that differ by model, size, and application. We have already initiated collaboration negotiations with a number of foreign companies in various countries. While I cannot name specific countries, I can indicate regions that we are interested in penetrating the Middle East, the Far East, Africa, Asia, and possibly Eastern Europe. We are aware that it is not that easy to sell our product directly to any Western European country, or to the US as it is, but there are companies in Western Europe with which we have opened productive dialogues to achieve partnership for the development of a joint product to supply their home markets and as well third-party markets.