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‘Turkey needs a defence industry for an international voice’

February 5, 2021 at 11:17 am

Turkish Industry and Technology Minister, Mustafa Varank attends the opening ceremony of delivery and design centre for the first indigenous helicopter engine TEI-TS1400, on December 05, 2020 in Eskisehir, Turkey [Raşid Necati Aslım / Anadolu Agency]

For Turkey to secure its status as an economic power and have a voice in the international arena, it needs to continue investing in its defence industry, a senior Turkish official said today.

The defence industry serves as an engine for both the economy and national security, Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank stressed during the opening ceremony of defence contractor Teknokar’s new factory in Ankara.

Varank underlined the fact that yearly global defence spending has reached roughly $2 trillion, with the US defence budget — the largest in the world — exceeding the total annual income of several countries at $732 billion. He added that China’s defence budget is more than $260 billion.

Noting that economic resources are often not enough in defence procurements, Varank cited an export ban by Canada on some products used in Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles. This, the minister pointed out, is despite the two countries being NATO allies.

READ: Top Turkish, US officials discuss bilateral ties 

Although this could seem like a disadvantage in the short term, the ban could pave the way for Turkey to localise its defence industry, he explained. The rate of production in the Turkish defence sector has risen from 20 per cent in 2002 to over 70 per cent today, with an annual sector income of $11 billion, of which 30 per cent comes from exports.

“Turkey is not only capable of building its own defence industry, but also able to export to foreign markets,” said the minister. He referred to the support given by the Turkish government for entrepreneurs to take advantage of opportunities in the defence industry. To date, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) has provided 813 projects with five billion Turkish lira ($706 million) in funds.

One of the country’s most important successes, Varank concluded, has been to generate qualified human resources to run its defence industry.