TBY talks to İsmet Yılmaz, Minister of National Defence of the Republic of Turkey, on developing indigenous solutions and local capabilities.

İsmet Yılmaz
İsmet Yılmaz 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 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 in Turkey?

Cyber security has to be considered from two perspectives: first, on our own information system's requirements, and secondly, from the requirements of the Turkish military. For its own requirements, the Information Systems Department has been regenerated from scratch and the staff in that department have received training on handling threats. Also, the Ministry has updated the internal regulations applied to the information systems and the Ministry staff. We also have initiated an exercise applied to numerous governmental agencies to see our current situation against cyber-attacks.

What is the Ministry's strategy for boosting exports from the defense industry?

In the scope of the 2012-16 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. 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. Most of the other countries we are partnering with in our products are also looking for the expertise of the Turkish army for training.

What is the Ministry's strategy for attracting and developing human capital?

The process of product development progresses in a very problematic way without experience and development. You either have to make concessions to quality or the process gets much longer. Furthermore, foreigners are ready to come to Turkey, just as the brain drain continues from our country to Western countries. The required labor force should begin to be trained now. A determined structuring which thoroughly coordinates all of the steps in the process is required for realizing our objectives.

What is your assessment of the Turkish ability to create an armored fighting vehicle (AFV)?

Altay is the most sophisticated high technology armored vehicle among others on the market, which demonstrates that we are one of the 9 or 10 Main Battle Tank developers in the world. Another example of the armored vehicle development capability exists in BMC Company, which developed Kirpi Mine Resistant Ambush Protect (MRAP) vehicles. Those vehicles are combat proven in many mine and IED attacks so far. In summary, during the last decade, we have reached the capability to design, develop, and produce any kind of armored vehicle to meet the requirements of Turkish Army, Turkish Police and the armies in the world.

What is your vision of defense affairs in Turkey?

The Turkish Defense Industry policy has been restructured and experienced a strategic transformation in the past 10 years. We are now able to design and manufacture our own critical technology defense systems. 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 national structured industry with more than thousand of companies, SMEs, and the participation of research organizations and universities.