Why don't we make our own weapons?

Ankara's upgrade plans : Why Turkey is developing weapons itself

A new era in military policy in the Middle East began this spring in the Syrian province of Idlib on the border with Turkey. For the first time Turkey used modern combat drones there against the army of another state. The unmanned aerial vehicles destroyed many tanks and artillery positions during battles against Syrian government troops.

Turkish drones are also used in Libya. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent them to the North African country to help the unity government under attack by the troops of the rebel general Khalifa Haftar. The Bayraktar TB2 is internationally one of the best drones in its class, judged the trade journal "Israel Defense".

Arms deliveries to Ankara are controversial in the West

At first glance, this may seem surprising. After all, Turkey has long been known in the West as a country that has a large army, but largely relies on imports for armaments issues. Arms deliveries to NATO partners are controversial in the West.

[All current developments as a result of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here in our news blog. At this point we will keep you up to date on developments in Berlin in particular.]

The difficulties in obtaining modern armaments from the West are an important reason why Turkey has turned to developing its own weapons. In recent years, Ankara has systematically expanded the arms sector. Today the Stockholm Peace Research Institute Sipri ranks Turkey 14th among the world's largest arms exporters.

The main buyers of Turkish weapons are Turkmenistan, Oman and Pakistan. By 2023, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic, arms exports are expected to increase from just under $ 3 billion a year to more than $ 10 billion.

Turkish weapons have been tried and tested to the customers. The development of drones, for example, gave the army a decisive advantage in the conflict with the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK. In the past, small groups of extremists were able to move almost unmolested in the impassable mountains of Southeast Anatolia, but the drones put the PKK on the defensive.

"The most important advantage of combat drones for Turkey is that the technology allows the military to survey an area of ​​conflict and identify targets," says Ulrike Franke, expert on combat drones at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank in London.

Political considerations are at least as important. Under Erdogan, the country sees itself as an independent actor pursuing its own interests - and at the same time accepting quarrels with Europe or America. "Without effective military deterrence, Turkey cannot achieve its goal of becoming a regional power," said Ali Cinar, head of the pro-Turkish think tank Turkish Heritage Foundation in Washington.

The Turkish Navy also has big plans

Turkey intends to continue this trend in the coming years by further strengthening its army. The air force is to receive a self-developed combat aircraft. The land forces will be equipped with a Turkish assault rifle that will replace the German G3.

The Turkish Navy also has big plans. In the next three years, the fleet of 112 ships is to be increased by 24 new ones. Among them is the "TCG Anadolu", the first helicopter carrier in Turkey. The ship, which should be ready next year, will have helicopters and drones as well as amphibious dropships and artillery on board - making it an instrument for projecting power across the Mediterranean.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page