Turkey still reliant on foreigners for defence systems, despite rhetoric

Turkey is still heavily reliant on foreign sources for a large part of its military hardware despite boasting that its defence industry is a symbol of its independence, said journalist Paul Iddon.

The country will remain reliant on foreign suppliers for some time to come, Iddon said in an article for Forbes magazine at the weekend.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says the country will end all dependency on foreign suppliers for building weapons by the country’s centenary in 2023, but that goal will not be possible, even by the end of the decade, Iddon said.  

Iddon gave the example of Turkey’s MILGEM national warship project, which he said was impressive and has increased the Turkish navy’s size and strength. But only 60 percent of the parts supplied to build the frigates and corvettes are local, he said.

A similar project to build the upcoming amphibious assault ship, TCG Anadolu, which will become the Turkish navy’s flagship, has the same design as Spain’s Juan Carlos I, Iddon said.   

Meanwhile, Turkey’s T129 ATAK attack helicopter conspicuously resembles the AgustaWestland A129 because it is actually based on the same airframe and then fitted with Turkish-made avionics and weapons, he said.

Turkey’s reliance on foreign hardware for building the helicopter was highlighted when it tried to strike a deal with Pakistan to sell a fleet of 30 for $1.5 billion, only to be told it needed U.S. export licenses as the aircraft had U.S.-built engine parts, he said.

The main Altay battle tank is heavily based on the South Korean K2 Black Panther, while Turkey’s T-155 Fırtına artillery guns are based on South Korean K-9 Thunder system and built under license with Turkish components and modifications, Iddon said.

Turkish defence industry projects are not indigenous systems but rather license-built Turkish variants of foreign systems, he said.

Turkey has made F-16 fighter jets under license for years but has never claimed it conceived of, designed, and built the planes from scratch, Iddon said.