Turkey has started work on making its first domestically produced long-range air defense missile system, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced Wednesday.
The first delivery of the system named Siper (meaning trench in English) is planned for 2021, Erdoğan said at the opening ceremony of the National Technology Development Infrastructures.
The ceremony was held at the Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Council's (TÜBİTAK) Defense Industry Research and Development Institute (SAGE) campus in Ankara.
Turkey is moving rapidly on the way to have a say in all fields of defense, aviation and space technologies, Erdoğan said.
"We have increased our locality rate in the defense industry from 20 percent to 65 percent … We will reach the target of an independent and strong Turkey by uninterruptedly continuing our national defense moves we have initiated in the defense industry," he noted.
"Our need for long-range regional air defense missile system comes up on different occasions. National long-range regional air defense missile system works were initiated by TÜBİTAK SAGE, Aselsan and Roketsan. Their first deliveries are scheduled to take place at the end of 2021," President Erdoğan said.
He also noted that important results were obtained especially in terms of high-resolution observation, communications satellites and sub-systems, satellite launch systems, satellite data processing, and storage and information support systems.
"Our defense industry sector has turned into a national structure with the participation of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), research institutions and universities alongside more than a thousand companies today," Erdoğan said.
Turkey's aviation and defense industry exports increased by nearly 14 percent, reaching over $900 million in the first half of this year, versus the same period last year.
Exports, about $795.71 billion in the January-June period of 2017, rose to some $906.41 billion this year, while aviation and defense industry exports in the last 12-month period reached nearly 1.85 billion, according to Turkish Exporters' Assembly (TİM) data.
The exports of the industry increased by 3.72 percent last year compared to the previous year. With the said performance, the sector reached $1.74 billion in exports, achieving the highest foreign sales figure to date, while the export of the sector in the last five years reached $8.1 billion.
Turkish defense contractors ASELSAN and ROKETSAN have already developed air-defense missiles for low altitude (Hisar-A, 15 km) and medium altitude (Hisar-O, 25 km) to defend against fixed and rotary wing aircraft, cruise missiles, air-to-ground missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in order to protect military bases, ports, facilities and troops from air threats. The Hisar-A and Hisar-O are expected to be in service by 2020 and 2021, respectively. The Korkut system, which began to be delivered to the Land Forces Command, will also be used to protect battleships against missiles.
Meanwhile, in September last year, Turkey agreed to buy two S-400s surface-to-air missiles from Russia in a deal worth over $2 billion. Officials from Ankara have repeatedly said that the purchase of the S-400 systems was prompted to fulfill the country's security needs.
As a NATO member country, Turkey's decision to buy the Russian S-400 systems has raised concern among other NATO member countries.
However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ended speculations, saying member states have the sovereign right to make decisions regarding their military purchases.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said last week that the installation of the S-400 missile system would begin in October 2019.
The S-400 missile defense system is Russia's most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system and can carry three types of missiles capable of destroying targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles.
The system can track and engage up to 300 targets at a time and has an altitude ceiling of 27 kilometers (17 miles). With the purchase of the S-400s, Ankara aims to build Turkey's first long-range air and anti-missile defense system to guard against threats in the region.
The S-400 system, which was introduced in 2007, is the new generation of Russian missile systems; so far, Russia has only sold them to China and India.