Turkey to continue growing drone industry after Canada ban

Turkey’s arms industry suffered a setback when NATO ally Canada this week announced it was halting the sales of advanced drone technology, but the measure is unlikely to deal lasting harm to the sector, the Media Line reported on Friday, citing analysts.

While it is unclear what Canada’s decision will cost Turkey and the country’s drone-production, the ban is not disastrous for Turkey’s programme, Aaron Stein, research director at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Media Line.

On Monday, the Canadian Foreign Ministry saidit had cancelled export permits to Turkey for parts used in armed drones after the gear was used by Azerbaijan in clashes with Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

According to Stein, the move will not result in a  “a financial catastrophe” for Turkey, whose defence industry is burgeoning.

Turkey’s arms industry went from $1 billion to $11 billion in annual revenue, including $3 billion in exports, since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power in 2002. The country is the 14th largest global defence exporter, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Turkish company Baykar Makina, owned by Erdoğan’s in-laws, the Bayraktar family, is the manufacturer of Bayraktar TB2 drones that leads the way in the country’s drone technology.

Drones are especially useful for Ankara, the Media Line said, as they  can be produced at low costs, while allowing the country to reach more battlefields.

Turkey has developed its indigenous drones and used them in recent military combats such as in Libya, Syria, in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside its own borders.

Turkey’s increased use of drones also helps President Erdoğan boost nationalist sentiment by allowing him to push a more assertive foreign policy, Muzaffer Şenel of Ankara Medipol University’s Political Science and International Relations Department said.

Ankara is “showing its muscle by investing in this broad technology … becoming more ambitious and also to show its muscle,” according to Şenel.