Turkiye is well on its way to meeting the goals of its 2023 defence vision, joining the top-tiers of the global defence industry with cutting-edge defence offerings in every domain of military technology. Here’s what it achieved in 2021.
2021 was a banner year for Turkiye’s defence industry, which saw increasing self-sufficiency, major sales growth and a complete slate of new defence offerings in multiple fields.
In 2020, Turkiye’s defence exports saw a significant increase, with ASELSAN reporting a 24 per cent growth with signed export contracts worth well over $450 million.
Despite the pandemic, 2021 gave rise to more new Turkish defence products than ever before and increasing global recognition of its robust, affordable and competitive military technologies.
2021 was also the year Turkiye's TB2 drones changed how modern warfare is fought, while showcasing their speed, precision and effectiveness in minimizing human casualties.
Turkiye’s defence industry has seen major transformations after its 2023 Vision plan was announced, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the republic’s founding.
1) Drones are the future
With the release of its heavy-class Akinci unmanned combat drone in August, Turkiye joined the top three drone manufacturers worldwide.
Heavy drones are much more difficult to manufacture than their lighter counterparts.
In 2022, Turkiye's heavy Akinci drone broke Turkish aviation history by flying at 11,594 metres for nearly 26 hours, well within the operational range of most fighter jets.
With its 20-meter wingspan and one-ton carrying capacity, the large drone can be paired with Roketsan’s lightweight Smart Micro-Munitions for longer flight times and high precision.
Precision is a major hallmark of Turkish drones. Their appropriate use in Syria and the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict showed the world they could lower collateral damage and offer defensive options to countries without large conventional air forces.
Fedai, a Turkish defence company also announced an anti-drone missile platform, cementing its hold on the industry that’s revolutionizing how nations of the world are approaching defence and military operations.
Not to be outdone, Turkiye also saw the release of a number of smaller tactical drones with swarming capability, facial recognition, and finally, a drone equipped with a steel-melting laser with a 500 meter range.
2) Space: the final frontier
In February 2021, Turkiye’s President Erdogan announced a 10-year domestic space program that included sending Turkish astronauts to space, launching the first national observation satellite, and making it to the moon by 2023.
The plan will rely on international cooperation at first, but aims to continue developing Turkiye's considerable rocket making experience into its own space-faring capacity.
2023 also marks the 100th centennial of the founding of the Turkish Republic, coinciding closely with Artemis Accord's plans to establish a lunar gateway base on the moon by 2024.
The 10-year plan will seek to establish a spaceport in Turkiye and a global brand for satellite solutions.
3) Land power
Turkiye finally launched its first national Altay tank prototype, not to be outdone in this field. The tank was named after Fahrettin Altay, a famous Turkish cavalry commander who distinguished himself in Turkiye’s war of independence with heroic exploits.
The Altay enjoys 360 degree automatic target acquisition, active trophy defences, modular chemical reactive armor, and a 120mm 55 calibre smoothbore gun promising top-tier accuracy.
Finally, 2021 was the year Turkiye announced the mass production of a series of unmanned ground vehicles, leaning further into cutting-edge automations offering the republic technological force multipliers in the field that increase the survivability of its own military personnel.
4) Aerial defence
Building on a long tradition of ballistic firepower, 2021 was the year Turkiye tested its first indigenously-produced the Siper long-range missile defence system, designed in response to frequent missile fire from Syria and set to enter the army’s inventory in 2023.
This year also saw the successful launch of the HISAR-A+ defence system, which can be networked with unmanned drones for extended sensory coverage. The defence shield began development in 2007, and currently enjoys a 15-kilometre range and 10-kilometre altitude.
2021 was also the year of hypersonic missiles. Turkiye’s Scientific and Technological Research Council (TUBITAK) announced the continued development of the SAPAN electromagnetic gun, which can accelerate projectiles to hypersonic speeds without the use of chemical propellants.
Aside from counter-hypersonic capabilities, TUBITAK continues to work on ramjet supersonic missiles, and precision-guided missiles such as the SOM.
The SOM are a class of autonomous, low-observable precision cruise missiles that pack more explosive power in smaller, more accurate rockets, offering heavy firepower to small and large drones alike.
5) Unmanned skies
Turkiye’s air defence saw significant growth in 2021, with a cost-effective electric converter released for helicopter weapon systems after global supply chain problems impacted their availability worldwide.
Capitalizing on its growing expertise in autonomous systems, Turkiye also revealed the world’s second unmanned attack helicopter, and announced full-scale testing for the recently developed indigenous Gokbey helicopter.
Baykar Industries also revealed a concept for a new unmanned combat fighter jet with carrier launch capabilities, complementing Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) earlier initiative to develop an indigenous next-gen stealth fighter jet that began in 2019. TAI also announced that 10,000 engineers would be added to the project, though only 6,000 were needed for its completion.
2021 was also the year TAI announced Turkiye’s armed close air support Hurkus-C combat aircraft was ready for export, offering significant appeal to countries seeking to enhance air support for land operations.
6) International recognition
As a reflection of growing confidence in Turkiye’s drone, missile and electro-optical defence engineering expertise, 2021 saw a number of major sales.
Kyrgz officials have also recently announced a decision to purchase Turkiye’s drones, joining nations such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Iraq, Niger, Qatar, and Turkmenistan. At least 9 other nations have indicated interest in procuring Turkiye’s drones.
7) Blue Homeland
In keeping with its ‘Blue Homeland’ naval doctrine originally developed in 2006, Turkiye continues to develop its naval capacity throughout 2021 to ensure the republic’s trade and defence in the Mediterranean and Aegean sea remains secure.
Major breakthroughs include testing an indigenously produced anti-ship missile in the Black Sea with over 200 kilometres in range.
This year, Turkiye also announced that six of its new submarines would enter service in 2022, after unveiling its first indigenous frigate, and committing to developing a national aircraft carrier.
This follows Turkiye production of four indigenous corvette-class warships delivered to Pakistan in recent years, ranking the nation among a select number of global powers able to manufacture naval warships.
2021 was also the year Turkiye announced the production of three more frigates, commissioned the naval intelligence ship TCG Ufuk, revealed an armed unmanned surface vessel (USV), and confirmed completion of a new 76 mm naval cannon set to enter the navy’s inventory in 2022.
Finally, Turkiye’s navy also commissioned two recently completed maritime patrol aircraft joining 17 naval combat drones, and three other new ATR-72 modern maritime patrol aircraft completed in 2021.
Taken together, 2021 was an outstanding year for Turkiye defence industry and economy, making this the year it gained international recognition as a defence technologist and manufacturer that could compete at the highest international levels.
2022 will see many long-term defence initiatives come to fruition, as Turkiye races to meet defence self-sufficiency before the 100th centennial of the republic’s independence.