The arms industry as election propaganda

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoilu announced last week his governmentand’s plan to manufacture the countryand’s first regional commercial aircraft, which he said was scheduled to make its first flight in 2019.
Turkey has the more ambitious plan of building its first fighter jet by 2023, three years after its first commercial plane is scheduled to take off. For ordinary citizens listening to Davutoilu during rallies ahead of the June 7 general election, both plans sound exciting, triggering nationalist sentiments since they have no idea at all over the relatively poor state of Turkish defense and civil industry infrastructure.
For the informed public, however, Davutoiluand’s claims during election rallies that Turkey has come to the point of building locally its attack helicopters, tanks, guns and rifles under the 13-year governance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are misleading. This is because Turkey has not yet reached the level of manufacturing highly critical military technology to produce, for instance, its attack helicopters locally without foreign technological support. For instance, Turkey has jointly been building attack helicopters with AgustaWestland through the transfer of certain technologies to Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) by this Italian company.
Similarly, Turkey has been manufacturing much of its military hardware with the support of foreign technologies since its defense industry base has not yet reached a level to manufacture high-tech products — which requires strong political will as well as the allocation of lots of resources for research and development activities.
It was not a long time ago — only in 2004 — that Turkeyand’s dependence on foreign military technologies stood at around 80 percent. Hence, it is not easy to bring the level of the Turkish defense industry to a level today that it can manufacture high-tech military products.
Even in the civil industrial field, Turkeyand’s leading companies — which have long been assembling automobiles with foreign company licenses — have so far been reluctant to produce locally made cars. This has been raising question marks over whether Turkey will be able to build its own commercial aircraft, let alone manufacture more sophisticated fighter jets.
One should trace the reasons behind Turkeyand’s failure to build certain high-tech products to its economic model based mainly on the construction and service sectors, rather than on heavy industry. Added to the problem is a general tradition of doing business in Turkey based on earning money through easy ways.
In a Foreign Policy article from Aug. 12 of last year, in his outline of the Turkish economy, Murat Uandcer states that and”the years of easy growth are over. Turkey can only sustain its economic success by undertaking bold reforms.and” According to Uandcer, and”growth will now have to come from more sophisticated sources — such as technology and improvements in human capital — as the old ones, like construction, run out of steam.and”
and”Unfortunately, Turkeyand’s readiness to undertake such efforts is debatable, to say the least. andhellip Turkey got rich fast, but did so by living beyond its means. andhellip The current account deficit problem is complex, driven by a chronic savings deficit and a host of competitiveness shortfalls, like low skill sets, poor tertiary education, rigid labor markets, and a lack of firm-level innovation and scale,and” he asserts.
Similar problems — i.e., and”competitiveness shortfalls, like low skill sets, poor tertiary education andhellip and a lack of firm-level innovation and scale,and” Uandcer writes — exist within the Turkish defense industry sector, too.
However, Turkey has made certain achievements in the defense industry even if it canand’t produce high-tech products locally. According to the April 17 issue of UK-based Janeand’s Defence Weekly, a prestigious defense magazine, and”Turkey has achieved a series of milestones in recent years. It has significantly increased its involvement in local defence programmes (having achieved 52% local involvement in 2011) driven defence exports by prioritising export facilitation through its offset programme (military exports increased more than 300% between 2004 and 2011) and initiated a series of ambitious domestic defence programmes, ranging from a national main battle tank (MBT) to a series of air-defence projects, albeit with ongoing foreign support.and”
At the end of the day, however, Turkey is still among the top 10 countries that import arms. To change this trend and hence increase arms exports requires strong policies for a transformation into a heavy industry economic model as well as transparency and good governance.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman