Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered a major increase in defense spending around the world, and Turkey is among the few countries best prepared for this change, according to a report by an international consulting firm.
The war in Ukraine has forced a rapid rethink of defense strategies and led a string of countries to promise large increases in military budgets. As a result, military spending has surged despite the subduing effects of the pandemic on economic growth.
If all NATO members lift their defense expenditures to 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022, the total spending will increase by 6.3% compared to the previous year, corresponding to an additional demand of $70 billion, global management consulting firm Kearney said in its latest report.
Turkey is one of the few nations best prepared for such a hike in demand thanks to its long-running research and development (R&D) projects, the report said.
Serdar Türkmen, a Kearney company partner in charge of the Turkish Aerospace and Defense Industry, emphasized that Turkey’s platform development projects such as the National Combat Aircraft (MMU) are closely followed around the world.
The TF-X MMU, a fifth-generation jet with similar features to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, is being developed by the local defense industry with the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) as the main contractor.
The national fighter jet is scheduled to exit the hangar in 2023, make its maiden flight in 2025 or 2026, and be added to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) inventory in 2029.
The biggest effect of increased military budgets is likely to be visible in the coming years, but spending was already on the rise in 2021 amid heightened tensions in the run-up to Russia’s invasion.
Global military spending topped $2 trillion for the first time ever last year, reaching $2.1 trillion, up 0.7% from 2020, as expenditure rose for the seventh straight year, according to data by the influential defense think tank, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Total military spending in Europe amounted to $418 billion and has been rising sharply since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Military budgets rose 3% from 2020 and stood 19% higher than in 2012, according to SIPRI.
Missile defense systems, drones and high-tech fighters are high on the shopping list of countries worried about Russia.
Turkey has particularly become famous for its unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), including Bayraktar TB2 and Akıncı, both developed by drone magnate Baykar.
Drones have shown how technology is revolutionizing modern warfare and TB2s’ performance in Ukraine’s defense against Russian forces has made many countries consider acquiring the UCAV.
Bayraktar TB2 has been seen taking out some of the most advanced anti-aircraft systems and advanced artillery systems and armored vehicles.
The TB2 had been such a factor in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Karabakh as well as Ukraine that it now spearheads Turkey’s global defense export push.
Türkmen stated that achieving time and budget targets in long-term defense programs requires working effectively with end-users and suppliers.
The report emphasized that defense companies must act quickly to respond to the increasing demand and outlined four steps that defense companies should take to benefit from the growth in the sector.
The first includes establishing the right balance between long-term goals and short-term opportunities in investment decisions.
Reiterating that many defense companies have focused on new technologies such as autonomous systems and hypersonic rockets in recent years, Kearney stated that some of the resources should be directed to short-term investments aimed at meeting the newly emerging increase in demand.
Increasing production capacity and productivity rapidly is listed as another step.
The report outlined that it is possible to increase production capacity and efficiency in the short term with capital investments such as new machinery and equipment.
The report said outsourcing can also help in this regard. It recommended defense companies develop a human resource value proposition to overcome the staffing constraint.
Engaging with suppliers and increasing transparency to shorten procurement processes and secure supply capacity was the third step to be taken.
The report emphasized that companies that make their procurement processes transparent will be one step ahead in increasing their production capacity.
“Companies that develop cooperation and co-invest with their strategic suppliers to overcome problems related to capacity, efficiency and delivery times will make significant gains,” it added.
Lastly, it has been suggested to use time effectively by accelerating R&D cycles.
Reiterating that the policies followed by some NATO countries cause delays and conflicts in deliveries, Kearney emphasized that defense companies should be flexible in adapting by learning lessons from the problems rather than waiting for these policies to change.
Turkey’s total defense and aerospace industry sector turnover exceeded the $10 billion threshold in 2021, Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) head Ismail Demir said in May.
The R&D expenditures of the industry, meanwhile, increased by 32% compared to the previous year and exceeded approximately $1.6 billion.