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Turkish Arms Industry Aiding Military Operation in Syria

Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters prepare a TOW anti-tank missile north of the city of Afrin, Syria, February 18, 2018. (REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi)
Turkish Arms Industry Aiding Military Operation in Syria
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Turkey’s offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria shows the growing expertise of Turkish arms manufacturers.

In recent years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to reduce his country’s dependency on imported arms.

Erdogan spoke recently about the military operation in the Afrin area of northwestern Syria.

“Almost all of the armored carriers ((operating)) in Afrin are domestically produced. I thank our friends who produced them,” he said.

The Turkish military is working with Syrian rebels to seize Afrin from a Kurdish militia that Turkey calls a terrorist group. Turkish officials say its fighters are linked to Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, holding an olive branch arrives to deliver a speech at an event in Ankara, Turkey, February 20, 2018.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, holding an olive branch arrives to deliver a speech at an event in Ankara, Turkey, February 20, 2018.

Erdogan also blamed the deaths of Turkish soldiers in Afrin on countries that did not sell Turkey complex weapons, including armed drones. He did not name any countries.

Last year, Erdogan took direct control of Turkey’s arms industry. The government has invested billions of dollars in the defense industry. Further investments are planned.

“A total of 55 projects worth $9.4 billion were evaluated,” said a presidential statement in January at a meeting of Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries.

Atilla Yesilada watches Turkey for Global Source Partners, a business advisory service. He says the defense industry has grown in large part because of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, the AKP.

Yesilada said, “In the past there was no money, but now there is a lot of money slushing around, and the AKP has the vision to realize this project."

"This is a success story of the AKP,” he added.

He said that Turkey once bought 80 percent of its weapons from overseas. Today, Turkey manufactures its own rifles, simple drones and armored vehicles.

Reducing dependency on imported arms is a goal of the government. The current Afrin operation shows Turkish officials the problem of depending on other countries. Germany is currently blocking improvements to Turkish-owned, German-made Leopard tanks because of their use in the Afrin operation.

But the Afrin campaign is also showcasing Turkey’s armaments industry.

“There are many new military technologies,” noted defense expert Metin Gurcan, who once served in the Turkish military. “Turkey has developed armed drones, helicopters, smart munitions and for the first time, they are all being tested in action abroad,” he added.

Along with developing arms independence, the Turkish government has an eye on the often profitable international arms market. Experts suggest Turkey is unlikely to try to compete with the world's major players, but instead will try to find an area of specialization.

Gurcan said, “Turkey has been trying to become a very important player in the arms exports market, in the region of the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa.” He noted that the government is using close diplomatic ties, with central Asian countries and Qatar, to secure several arms agreements.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Dorian Jones reported this story for George Grow adapted his report for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

domesticadj. of or relating to a country, especially one’s own country

evaluatev. to consider the condition or value of something

vision – n. something seen in a dream; a thought or idea

abroadadj. or adv. overseas; to or in a foreign country

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