Having left behind a year of many achievements in the fields of technology and defense amid global developments from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to the Russia-Ukraine war, Türkiye is set to see important milestones in defense production in 2023, the 100th anniversary of the republic.
While the world reels from the pandemic, China’s ongoing strict measures have hit many sectors, especially chip production.
In this period, Türkiye’s technology and defense companies took significant steps, including cooperation agreements, innovative products and export deals, while preparing to continue growing in the upcoming year.
Being one of the key projects that will leave a mark on the year 2023, the National Combat Aircraft (MMU), which is dubbed the most important technology project in the country will leave the hangar on March 18 by starting the engine.
The fifth-generation aircraft developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is expected to replace F-16 jets, which are planned to be phased out by the 2030s. Its fighter jet will make its maiden flight in 2025 and start duty in 2028.
Hürjet, a jet trainer and light attack aircraft by TAI will also make its maiden flight on March 18. It will perform flight tests with four prototypes and will reach the level of being able to perform its first duty in 2025.
Another important development will be the maiden flight of the heavy-class attack helicopter Atak-2. TAI will make the first delivery of the multipurpose helicopter Gökbey which has a high payload capacity. Anadolu, a landing helicopter dock (LHD) type amphibious assault ship which will be Türkiye’s flagship, is also preparing to join the inventory.
Tech, defense exports
Türkiye is expected to close 2022 with defense exports of $4 billion, the president said recently while the high and medium-high-tech products’ share was 36% in overall exports of $209.4 billion during the January to October period.
This year, defense and technology firms exported high-tech products, such as the TAI’s attack helicopter export to the Philippines in March.
Baykar, a famous Turkish drone manufacturer, announced earlier this year that the number of countries where its world-renowned Bayraktar TB2 drone is being exported has risen to 24.
The firm has the capacity to produce 200 Bayraktar TB2, a battle-proven combat drone that made itself a name after being successfully used in warzones from Syria and Libya to Karabakh and lastly in Ukraine, annually but it plans to raise the capacity to 500 in 2023.
Baykar also granted Bayraktar TB2s to Ukraine after learning of fundraising campaigns, like the one in Lithuania to buy this drone for its embattled neighbor in June.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) report showed two Turkish firms were among the top 100 defense firms, Aselsan and TAI, raking in sales of $2.16 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively, in 2021.
Türkiye has been designing and producing innovative technologies in recent years, especially in aviation.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in October that Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have become a “game changer” in modern wars.
Such statements came after Bayraktar TB2, together with smart ammunition also developed by the Turkish defense industry was used on the battlefield, either by the Turkish army or the countries that have purchased the drone.
The combat drone has hunted down Russian military gear from air defense systems to tanks and howitzers in Karabakh and Ukraine, as well as in Syria during Türkiye’s counterterrorism operations.
It was even said that the drone had a particular role in Ukraine’s sinking of Russia’s Moskva cruiser in the Black Sea.
Among the newly developed products, Roketsan, a leading Turkish missile producer that also produced the smart ammunition fired from Bayraktar TB2s, introduced a new cruise missile, Çakır, which will make its first launch in the coming period.
With a range of over 150 kilometers (93 miles), the cruise missile will be launchable from fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, assault drones, tactical land vehicles and naval platforms.
Turkish defense company Armelsan exhibited its domestic mine-hunting sonar, the Nusrat-1915, in April.
The sonar can detect and classify moored as well as ground mines.
Türkiye’s first multi-caliber sniper rifle, produced by the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKE) under the name KN-12, entered the Turkish Armed Forces’ inventory in June.
The country’s first indigenous turbofan engine, which is also the most powerful engine produced by the country, was exhibited at technology events during the year.
The engine will be launched by the beginning of 2023.
As one of the most important developments, Baykar introduced its unmanned fighter jet, Bayraktar Kızılelma, or Red Apple.
The aircraft, which made its maiden flight in December, has low detectability and hypersonic speed.
Baykar also tested another unmanned aerial vehicle, the Bayraktar Akıncı B, in March.
While the previous model, Akıncı A, has 900 horsepower (hp), the new model has 1,500 hp via two 750 hp engines.
Akıncı B is the most powerful and combat-capable armed UAV in its class in the world, according to the company.
Another important development was in Togg, which is the country’s first electric car brand.
Starting the project in 2018, Togg began the mass production phase last October.
Togg will make its debut in the first quarter of 2023 with the SUV, its first smart device in the C segment, after the completion of homologation tests.
A Turkish-made armed unmanned surface vehicle (USV) completed its first marine tests in September.
Under development by Turkish defense firms Havelsan and Yonca-Onuk, the Sancar USV will meet many of the military’s requirements, including against foes that are not easily recognizable and capable of unconventional operations.
Another USV, Marlin, which is developed and produced indigenously in Türkiye, demonstrated its abilities at a NATO exercise in southwestern Portugal in September.
Developed by defense giant Aselsan and the Sefine Shipyard in northwestern Yalova province under the coordination of the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), the vehicle took part in a drill with around 100 other unmanned aviation and marine vehicles.
Studies, events, deals
The country has been also conducting scientific research and events. Türkiye has taken its first steps into outer space with a crewed mission by trying to hunt the best astronaut candidates.
The Turkish Space Agency (TUA) and U.S.-based space firm Axiom have also signed an agreement to send the first Turkish manned mission to space in September.
On the earth side, a Turkish research team with 20 members visited Antarctica to conduct research as part of the sixth Antarctic expedition. In 46 days starting in February, the team has completed 14 different projects.
The country’s largest technology and aviation event Teknofest was organized in the Black Sea province of Samsun in August.
Attracting over 900,000 visitors, the event featured technology competitions in over 40 categories, including semiconductors, UAVs, satellites, rockets, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Teknofest also organized a foreign event in Azerbaijan’s Baku in May for the first time and hosted 300,000 visitors in four days.
The International Space Convention (ISC) 2022, one of the world’s leading space events, was held in the Marmara province of Bursa in September. Several topics were discussed, including autonomy in space, commercialization of space and using space for international security challenges.
Organized by the Istanbul Defense and Aerospace Cluster Association (SAHA), a major Turkish defense event, SAHA Expo, was organized in Istanbul in October.
It exhibited innovative defense products from Türkiye and foreign countries and hosted top officials from governments and armies from dozens of countries. In many events, Turkish firms or institutions have signed important agreements. After pioneering Türkiye’s first unmanned helicopter, the Alpin, Titra Teknoloji strengthened its presence in civil aviation and UAVs by forging a strategic cooperation agreement with Cicare, one of the world’s leading helicopter companies, in May.