How does Turkey's war industry work?

The war industry in Turkey, which has the second biggest armed forces among NATO countries, is active and structured in more than one market. Referred as "defense" as in all over the world, the industry’s regular market is defined as providing equipment for the country’s armed forces. However, being dependent on international trade and markets, it is a capital intensive industry in capitalist terms and a "strategic" industry in imperialist terms
Saturday, 07 April 2018 17:18

The capital intensive nature of the industry stems from the fact that its offense and defense platforms, with all components, grow dependent on technological developments. Since the industrial revolution and especially with the developments of the 20th century, scientific reforms and technological developments find their orientations and priorities within this sector.

The imperialist wars and periods between wars are significant in terms of scientific research and technological advancements in offense, defense and intelligence. Communication technologies, information systems, material technologies have been developed in line with the objectives and strategies of imperialist countries; innovations devoted to products and manufacturing technologies have been primarily put on the market of defense and offense.

It is possible to talk about some main processes determining the incentives of the 21st-century war industry. The turn from nationalism to internationalism (meaning Americanization), from imperialist wars fought at several fronts to fight against terrorism that is defined within ideological partnerships, from wars fought among national armies to wars fought by ideological blocs against the others’ guerilla organizations and particular countries on target… All of these turns have been the processes determining the weapon platforms used, munitions and, most importantly, the technologies of intelligence and communication.


Turkish war industry has planned its own way in line with its share within the imperialist orientations. The national politics and strategies of the defense industry since the 1990s have focused on meeting the equipment demands of the armed forces with “national” resources and thus “nationalizing” the industry. Weapon systems and technologies have been aimed to be modernized and nationalized incrementally by defining categories like mandatory, critical and other for offensive and deffensive armament.

The main actor in these strategies defined has been the Undersecreteriat for Defense Industries (UfDI) established in 1985. The institution, since its establishment, started with main principles such as being open to the private sector, creating domains for exporting, forming industrial collaborations with the NATO countries. The objective of utilizing the national industrial infrastructure has been immediately extended by putting emphasis on “collaborating with foreign technology and capital contribution”. Since 1998, topics such as collaborating with foreign capital, export potential and international partnerships have come into focus.

During the AKP years, the role and determination of UfDI in arms industry has been prominently registered. Starting from 2003, regulations to increase civil control over several fields such as modernization of the armed forces, military supply systems, and defense budget have been activated. In 2004, the consequences of this new approach became more concrete.

UfDI has declared that the strategy of Turkey’s defense industry is based on not designing platforms and producing them, but becoming a co-producer in system projects and developing and producing sub-components such as electronic systems and software, while canceling plans for three fundamental system developments. So, Turkey with AKP, declared to cope and cooperate with the actors of the international arms industry.


The tasks of Turkey’s defense industry start in accordance with National Defense Ministry’s strategy and plans, with projects that are opened for offers by UfDI, in which supply for modernization of hardware of Turkish Armed Forces, and fields requires development are targeted.

The crucial application in this order, which is based on the expansion of regulations in favor of capital, and in favor of collaborating with international cooperations designed by UfDI, is the ‘offset application’ which is a regulation passed in 2003.

The offset application regulation in defense supply transactions were defined as “transactions to enhance the production opportunity and ability as well as market shares/competitive advantages of the country’s industrial and service sectors”. The offset transactions projected that the private sector would involve in the sector with three subcategories. The first category is that national companies would involve in defense projects and products as suppliers or subcontractors. The second is about supporting the national companies in terms of exporting products and/or services. The last category is about making regulations to encourage foreign capital to invest and cooperate.

With these regulations, foreign subcontractors, other firms participating within the scope of supply contracts, other foreign firms that are approved by UfDI and suggested by the foreign contractor, national contractor and supplier firms are involved in the projects in defense and aerospace industry.

These regulations have been updated in order to regulate industrial participation in different categories since 2007.

By the year 2018, there are 41 companies that are under industrial participation or offset contract with UfDI. Among these, there are big Turkish companies like Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), Aselsan, Roketsan and Havelsan besides the international giants such as England’s BAE, US’ Boeing and Lockheed Martin and European capital, Airbus.

That is to say, Turkey has identified the ways and methods to integrate its defense industry into the international arms industry and markets controlled by the imperialist capitalist blocs and handed the business over UfDI. This integration comes to the forefront when the matter is to determine the country’s arms equipment and technologies. Under the main aim of modernizing the armed forces’ inventory, projects are identified and financed in line with the international arms industry’s actual demands and dynamics.

Within the scope of Turkish arms industry, the firms that have contracts with UfDI or the firms that provide products and development for the industry along with the other supply chains are organized under Aerospace and Defense Manufacturers Association (SASAD). SASAD has 187 manufacturers and 6 clusters registered with the association. According to the UfDI data from 2016, the total sectoral value was approximately 6 billion dollars (5,968 million dollars). According to the same figures, Land Platforms / Systems have the highest sales volume. Second place is military aviation. The UfDI reports indicate that the C5ISR (command, control, communications, computer, cyber defense, intelligence, surveillance, discovery) and IT turnover are well below expectations. However, the C5ISR area includes components with the largest profit share in the international arms market. Turkey's arms industry, to grab a share of this lucrative areas aims to improve the integration of technology that will be developed within the scope of C5ISR in those platforms and system from which Turkey caught a kind of partnership.

Turkey's arms industry, land and marine vehicles, aerospace and aviation, air defense weapons and systems have specialized projects in the field of cybersecurity and electronic warfare. There is an international contribution or connection in the majority of these projects, which are presented as 100% local and national to the public.

Another important feature of the firms in the Turkish defense industry that are specialized in offense and weapon systems product developments is that they have a large share of the public partnership. Those coming first in the list such as Aselsan, TAI, Havelsan and Roketsan are the firms owned by Turkish Armed Forces Development Foundation. For instance, 84% of the shares of Aselsan, which is among the top 100 weapon producers, are owned by this foundation.

On the other hand, UfDI, which is specialized in the task of demilitarization and foreign expansion in the Turkish defense industry, has direct initiatives and partnerships in the sector. For example, UfDI has 45.45% of the shares of TAI, which is again in the top 100 list of weapon producers of the world.