The International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF'23), one of Türkiye's and the world's leading exhibitions, opened its doors to arms manufacturers, customers and visitors between July 25-28. Once only prototypes of weapons were exhibited at the fair, now the weapons themselves are on display. There are still many mock-ups, but each one represents the weapons that will be produced in the future. Therefore, it can be said that the more mock-ups there are, the more weapon projects Türkiye has.
Türkiye is now capable of producing almost every weapon. There are still ongoing projects that have not yet started mass production as the weapons are really difficult and time-consuming to produce, in addition to the challenges of ongoing embargoes. So far, Turkish companies have produced almost every weapon they promised, sooner or later. They have even become world brands in weapons that require the most advanced technology, such as unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs).
Next in line are helicopter, jet and tank projects, which are much larger in volume and cost. Fortunately, at least one sample of each has already been produced. Therefore, the question is no longer whether these weapons will be built, but when. It is expected that all bigger indigenous weapons projects will proceed to mass production by 2030. The production also means an exponential increase in export figures as well. Türkiye exported $4 billion (TL 107.86 billion) worth of weapons last year and tries to exceed $6 billion this year.
The arms industry is a high-value-added sector. The value of missiles and UCAVs in kilograms reaches tens of thousands of dollars. If one of the Bayraktar Akıncı UCAVs, which Saudi Arabia recently ordered for more than $3 billion, were folded and put into a 40-foot container, it would probably fit. A container of carpet is worth $20,000. When you put a UCAV in the same container, its value can reach $30 million.
Another advantage of the highly profitable defense industry is that the market is open for Turkish companies to get a lucrative share. Currently, the arms industry is in the hands of Western countries. These countries sell their weapons either at a high price or on conditional terms. At the moment, they do not even sell weapons or parts to their NATO ally Türkiye. This situation seemed like a disadvantage at first, but it has turned into an advantage as it encouraged Turkish companies to produce indigenous weapons.
Moreover, this advantage has become beneficial for countries like Türkiye that are dependent on foreign arms. Some countries are now buying from Türkiye to end their dependency on the West. Indeed, countries in Africa, the Far East, the Middle East and even some European countries have turned to Türkiye for arms supply. In a very short time, we may see a clear Turkish dominance in the arms industry, especially in African countries.
Meanwhile, an agreement signed with Azerbaijan at the IDEF exhibition is worth mentioning. According to the agreement, Azerbaijan has officially become a partner in the production and development of the KAAN fighter jet. This means that Azerbaijan will be both the producer and the customer of the jet. Other friendly countries should become partners in projects of Turkish defense companies such as the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), Aselsan and Roketsan as well.
While the benefit to Türkiye will be very little, it will be much more for other partners because Türkiye will somehow produce its fighter jet. However, by joining the project, other countries will be able to buy fighter jets at cheaper prices, not incur embargoes, and obtain advanced technology.
Countries become stronger by acting together. This is how the European continent became stronger. The European Union is a successful example of joint action. In advanced technology, the multinational company Airbus is a good example. Europeans came together to produce products that they could not afford on their own. Surely, Türkiye and its friends can do the same. The defense industry can be a good sector to start with. If they become successful, they can partner in other sectors as well.