Seeking to give the Turkish defense industry a stronger presence in global markets and access to new opportunities, the 6th Defense Port Turkey expo is set for Oct. 26-28 under the name Defense Port Turkey-South Asia.
This year's expo will be held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Hakan Kurt, the CEO of Capital Exhibition.
The event is expected to bring together more than 80 military delegations from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Kurt said.
In the last two decades, the Turkish defense industry has made remarkable progress in reducing its dependence on foreign products, reaching almost 70% in local production and significantly strengthening its hand in exports.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has most recently said that Turkey “has managed to reduce its external dependency in the defense industry from 70% to 30%, and “the volume of defense projects has reached $60 billion, while defense exports have exceeded $3 billion.”
Kurt, noting that the recent development of the Turkish defense industry has been reflected in its export performance, said: “Our goal is to hit $5 billion of defense industry exports to those three countries over the next decade.”
“This goal can be achieved very easily,” he said, emphasizing that marine projects are especially prominent in Pakistan and Bangladesh while the country is set to be provided with an important reference in air platforms with the planned delivery of reconnaissance and attack helicopters to Pakistan.
Kurt referred to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, very promising markets for Turkey's defense industry, and that those countries bear various cooperation opportunities.
Turkish defense giant ASELSAN alone has exported over $1 billion (TL 7.55 billion) in products to Pakistan over 26 years, he added.
Naval projects at forefront
Naval projects indeed form the backbone of defense cooperation with Pakistan, among others.
In July 2018, the Pakistan Navy signed a contract with Turkey’s ASFAT Inc. for four ships. The ships are being built within the scope of the National Ship (MILGEM) project that also strengthened Turkey’s hand in surrounding seas with domestically produced corvettes.
According to the deal with Pakistan, two corvettes will be built in Turkey and two will be built in Pakistan. The deal also involves a technology transfer.
The keel-laying or the formal recognition of the start of the construction ceremony of the first MILGEM Ada class corvette was held in Istanbul in June 2020, while the steel-cutting or the groundbreaking ceremony for the second Ada class corvette for the Pakistan Navy was held in Karachi following the first ceremony.
MILGEM vessels are 99 meters (325 feet) long with a displacement of 24,00 tons and can move at a speed of 29 nautical miles per hour.
MILGEM anti-submarine combat frigates, which have advance radar-evading technologies, will further enhance the defense capability of the Pakistan Navy. Though centered on the Turkish Naval Forces' same-class corvettes, the Pakistan Navy’s ships can be designed in line with the additional needs of the country. For instance, a representative picture circulated online following the steel-cutting ceremony of the second corvette showed a custom design with a 16-cell vertical launching system (VLS) on the bow. The VLS did not appear to be on any of Turkey’s Ada-class corvettes.
Ankara and Islamabad have also signed a deal for the sale of 30 domestically developed T129 tactical reconnaissance and attack helicopters (ATAK) in 2018, providing a new dimension to the longstanding cooperation and bilateral relations between Pakistan and Turkey in the defense field.
The ATAK is a new generation, tandem, two-seat, twin-engine helicopter specifically designed for attack and reconnaissance. Developed from the combat-proven AgustaWestland A129CBT, the aircraft incorporates a new system philosophy with a new engine – the LHTEC CTS 800-4A, new avionics, sight systems and weapons, a modified airframe, an uprated drive train and a new tail rotor.
Equipped with up to 76 unguided rockets and 20-millimeter guns with a 500-millimeter ammunition capacity for close air support missions, ATAK helicopters also feature Roketsan’s long-range anti-tank missiles (UMTAS), and 16 Cirit laser-guided missiles, along with eight Stinger air-to-air missiles for multipurpose tasks, cutting-edge electronic warfare and electro-optical systems.
Defense Industries President Ismail Demir announced in November 2019 the upgrade of the helicopters, the contractor of which is Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).
“The ATAK Phase 2, equipped with a laser warning system and upgraded electronic warfare systems, successfully carried out its maiden flight,” he said at the time.
Roketsan, which supplies rockets and missiles to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and Turkish defense company and automotive manufacturer Otokar, has conducted projects in the country – some of which have been completed, while others are still ongoing.