Turkey must move to ‘next level’ in defence production, says Erdoğan

It is time for Turkey to move to the “next level’’ in the defence industry and produce multiple aircraft carriers, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday, citing obligations brought on by regional conflicts surrounding the country. 

Nations unable to be strong and independent in the field of defence cannot look at their future with confidence and Turkey must go further in the industry and produce more advanced products, state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Erdoğan as saying at a ceremony in Istanbul inaugurating new naval systems.

“Turkey is at the very centre of a landscape that is rife with global conflicts, political crises, conflict and tensions,” Erdoğan said, which necessitates a strong defence industry.

“I see some ship builders with us today. We can build the second and third aircraft carriers, right? Can we? Because we need those to be a deterrent at sea.” 

Erdoğan’s statements arrive amid brewing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean with neighbouring Greece over hydrocarbon resources. Greece and Turkey have long disagreed on overlapping claims on hydrocarbon resources in the region, with both sides holding conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend in waters.

Two weeks ago, Turkey dispatched the seismic survey vessel Oruş Reis to an area of sea claimed by both sides, saying it will operate there until the end of the month, in a move that has enraged Greece and prompted the EU to urge Ankara to halt activities in the region.

Ankara can implement its policies from the eastern Mediterranean to the Aegean, from the Black Sea to the Balkans, Caucasus and Africa due to the level it has reached in political, economic and technological fields, Anadolu quoted Erdoğan as saying.

Erdoğan also said “Turkey is among the 10 countries that can design and produce its own warships,” while announcing a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship and a light aircraft carrier, the Anadolu TGC, is due to set sail next year.

Turkey has seen a dramatic expansion in its defence industry in recent years, with a shift from arms procurement to arms manufacture and sales. 

From 2003 to 2020, the number of Turkish defence and aerospace companies rose from 56 to 1,500, according to a Defense News report.