After starting as a research and development (R&D) center, an Istanbul-based company is producing key components for the Turkish defense industry that were previously imported from abroad but are now subjected to embargoes and other restrictions, thus circumventing obstacles to the sector on its way to full independence.
With more than 40 years of experience in the metal forming industry, Repkon Machine and Tool Industry & Trade Inc. manufactures strategically important technologies such as flowforming, shearforming and hot spinning machines and explosion-proof presses. The company not only provides these critical technologies to the local defense sector but also exports them abroad, with the United States having become one of the main markets.
Uğur Cem Gürpınar, head of business development and corporate communication at Repkon, told Daily Sabah in a recent interview that the firm initially focused on producing the parts that were subjected to official or unofficial embargoes. For example, the “flowforming” technology owned only by four countries – namely the U.S., Spain, Germany and Turkey.
He said that possessing this technology is of critical importance since it is applied particularly in the production of sensitive parts used on rocket bodies.
Repkon currently has machines producing parts for rockets and missiles varying from 122 millimeters, 300 millimeters and up to 650 millimeters in diameter, Gürpınar said.
“Normally, we are a machine manufacturer company, but we also support mass production with the requests received recently,” he added.
The company is involved in several fields of the defense sector, including warhead and rocket body production, large-caliber artillery weapons, mortars and air defense weapons, anti-aircraft/ship weapons, bullet shell production, barrel production machines, anti-tank munitions production lines, medium and long-range rocket body production machines and explosion-proof presses and production lines.
Commenting on the company’s operations, Gürpınar noted that after Turkey was banned from importing barrels during its counterterrorism operations in Iraq and Syria, Repkon began working on developing the embargoed products and developed a 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher barrel within two years.
Currently, there are a total of 500 40-millimeter automatic grenade launchers developed by the company in the Turkish Armed Forces' (TSK) inventory.
The firm is now in a position to even export to the U.S., the country that initially imposed the embargo on Turkey, said Gürpınar, stressing that it shows how far Repkon has come in its "success story."
Aiming to eradicate the PKK terrorist threat completely, Turkey has conducted cross-border military operations several times, throttling the terrorist group in northern Iraq. In the last two years, the intensifying operations in northern Iraq have demolished the terrorists' dens in Metina, Avashin-Basyan, Zap and Gara. After getting rid of the organization's influence in these regions, Turkey then aimed to clear Qandil, Sinjar and Makhmour – described as the "main target" – of terrorism.
The TSK has also been taking every necessary measure for the security of the border provinces and the regions beyond the boundary, namely the areas in northern Syria that were cleared from terrorists but have been targeted and infiltrated from time to time by the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the YPG.
Turkish forces have launched three operations in the last five years, securing hundreds of kilometers of the border strip and pushing around 30 kilometers (20 miles) into northern Syria.
The military has eliminated hundreds of terrorists in Syria and northern Iraq with operations in which the local defense industry and its high-performing, world-class products were the army’s closest ally.
In the operations targeting Daesh terrorists, Bashar Assad regime forces and the YPG, which is viewed by the U.S. as a key ally, Turkey significantly benefited from its locally produced defense gear, with Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) providing notable leverage. The drones – which left targets with nowhere to hide, destroying the objective with smart ammunition – were operated in conjunction with fighter jets that did not enter Syrian airspace but rather assisted the drones from afar, together with electronic warfare (EW) units.
Turkish Aerospace Industries' (TAI) Atak helicopters, meanwhile, were put to special use in operations in Iraq. Terrorists attempting to escape from areas deemed inaccessible were targeted with the domestic choppers.
Those operations, indeed, thrust the Turkish aviation sector into the spotlight.
Repkon's Gürpınar went on to say that some parts needed in the aviation sector, namely helicopter shafts, also faced embargoes and thus the need arose to produce the equipment internally – which is exactly where his firm entered the game.
Under the scope of a project the firm developed with TAI, Gürpınar said that Repkon has domestically produced aluminum helicopter shafts that have already been installed on aircrafts that are now in the army's inventory.
Using its flowforming technology, the company produces more than just shafts for jet engines and helicopters rotors, offering a range of products, including aircraft cylinders, pressure tanks and accumulators.
The company official went on to explain that Turkey cannot acquire barrel forging machines typically used by the arms industry from abroad, including the machines themselves, their spare parts and services, due to official or unofficial export restrictions.
However, Gürpınar said they are currently able to produce benches that can make barrels of various diameters. “We can support companies with mass production,” he said.
Gürpınar also touched upon the company's exports and its plans for the near future to further expand into world markets.
Repkon provides turnkey lines for the MK series bombs, he said, noting that they recently signed a contract for the full production line for MK-81, MK-82, MK-83 and MK-84, 105- and 155-millimeter bombs through an intergovernmental agreement with Bangladesh.
“The delivery date is approaching,” he said.
He noted that the company, which can export to "friendly and allied countries," currently has business relations with Ukraine, adding that they also see huge interest from the U.S. market.
“The technologies we have developed are not comparable in the world market,” Gürpınar said, noting that the U.S. – where Repkon attends fairs every year – and Southeast Asian countries are the main market for them but they also will be in Europe.
“We are in contact with France, the United Kingdom, Germany,” he said, as well as some Middle Eastern states, Gulf countries and Turkic republics.
On the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector and exports, Gürpınar said that rather than stagnating, the company strove hard to meet production needs.
“The industry has never stopped, it continues rapidly,” he added.
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