R&D soldiers: 21,000

Published 08.05.2013 19:27
Updated 08.05.2013 19:45

The silent revolution in Turkey’s defense industry has managed to create jobs for 21,000 engineers. This year, 2,386 Turkish firms quite literally put on a show at the International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF) which kicked off on Tuesday in Istanbul.

Held from May 7-10, the 13th annual International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF) began with a bang on Tuesday at Istanbul's Tüyap. This year's fair clearly showed the rewards of Turkey's silent revolution in the defense industry. From ships to planes, satellites to tanks, Turkish firms, which made up over half of the companies representing at the fair, are now able to produce dozens of combat vehicles. While in 2000, there were only 40 defense industry firms; this year there are 2,386, most of which are SME's. Last year, these firms raked in 4.6 billion dollars in turnover and 1.3 billion dollars in exports.


Turkey's sector-based representation at this year's IDEF, which saw the participation of Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek, National Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Land Forces Commander General Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu and Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu on its opening day, is now at 54 percent. The number of personnel that are working in Research and Development have practically surpassed the ranks of many a nation's armies. According to the latest figures, there are currently 21,000 engineers working in Turkey's defense industry. While 23 percent are employed at foundation companies that operate under the auspice of the Turkish Armed Forces, the remaining are employed in the private sector.

The international participation at this year's IDEF was also quite eye-catching. A staggering domestic and foreign 781 companies represented 50 different countries. There were also 506 foreign delegation members from 81 different countries that visited yesterday's fair opening. Amongst the foreign delegation was 22 ministers, 12 deputy ministers, a chief of general staff, five chief of general staff deputies, six forces commanders and eight undersecretaries.


Amongst the most attention-drawing vehicles on display was the ATAK helicopter, Vestel's first domestic tactical unmanned aerial vehicle Karayel, Aselsan's military vehicles and national tank Altay as well as TÜBİTAK's Göktürk 2 satellite and missiles. The final version of the Karayel, prior to its handing off to the Turkish Armed Forces, and the training plane the Bora both premiered at the fair. Zorlu Holding CEO Ömer Yüngül says, "We are planning on producing 60 vehicles a year."


Turkey's SMEs also made a mark on the fair, with Ankara's OSTİM Industrial Zone in full attendance. OSTİM administrators say that 120 firms in their zone now produce for the defense industry and have exported to 55 different countries.

Other innovations of interest included the domestic "T-129 Atak" helicopter, which drew high attention from participants from Asia and the Middle East. Otokar's palette armored vehicle COBRA II and the new tactical vehicle URAL were also on display. Nurol Makina launched their 4x4 vehicles which are part of the Ejder series and standout for having a wide interior volume and a unique design.

This is a translation of an article originally written by Metin Can and Hasan Ay.

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