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.

The Bayraktar TB2 seen in the picture has been used by the Turkish Armed Forces and Turkiye's Security Directorate since 2015.
The Bayraktar TB2 seen in the picture has been used by the Turkish Armed Forces and Turkiye's Security Directorate since 2015. (AA Archive)

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.

The Bayrak-manufactured Akinci drone operates in the same class as the US MQ-9 Reaper, and the XQ-58 Valkyrie.
The Bayrak-manufactured Akinci drone operates in the same class as the US MQ-9 Reaper, and the XQ-58 Valkyrie. (Bayrak Defence)

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. 

Turkiye’s latest telecommunication satellite Turksat 5B was launched by the US aerospace company Space X.
Turkiye’s latest telecommunication satellite Turksat 5B was launched by the US aerospace company Space X. (AA)

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 base will serve as a springboard for operations deeper into the solar system. In line with this, Turkiye launched two new fifth-generation satellites with SpaceX in February and December

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 prototype was released alongside a number of ‘Storm’ mobile artillery platforms, and has already enjoys a pre-order for 100 tanks from Qatar since 2019. 

Turkiye's first main battle tank, seen on an undisclosed firing range.
Turkiye's first main battle tank, seen on an undisclosed firing range. (AA)

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.

The use of UGVs will increase with the rapid development of the technology and the benefits it will create in the future.
The use of UGVs will increase with the rapid development of the technology and the benefits it will create in the future. (AA Archive)

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.

Turkiye has been working to fortify its air space defence capability since the mid-2000's. (AA)
Turkiye has been working to fortify its air space defence capability since the mid-2000's. (AA) (AA)

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.

The recently test-fired HISAR-A+ short-range air defence system is the advanced and upgraded version of HISAR-A and is part of the medium and long-range Hisar air defence system family.
The recently test-fired HISAR-A+ short-range air defence system is the advanced and upgraded version of HISAR-A and is part of the medium and long-range Hisar air defence system family. (AA)

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.

Some of the missiles developed by TUBITAK SAGE are seen in the image.
Some of the missiles developed by TUBITAK SAGE are seen in the image. (AA)

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.

The preliminary prototype of the
The preliminary prototype of the "unmanned and electric" version of the T629 helicopter, which is under development, was exhibited for the first time at the TUSAS ceremony area, on February 25, 2021 in Ankara, Turkiye. (AA)

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.

Hurkus-C has the benefit of also offering a low-cost, flexible solution against asymmetric threats which have become common on today's battlefields.
Hurkus-C has the benefit of also offering a low-cost, flexible solution against asymmetric threats which have become common on today's battlefields. (AA)

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.

Poland became the first NATO and EU country to buy Turkish combat drones. Other major procurements include Indonesia’s order for a joint Turkiye-Indonesia combat tank design

The Kaplan MT/Harimau medium tank was unveiled at the 15th International Defense Fair, literally meaning 'Tiger' in both Turkish and Indonesian.
The Kaplan MT/Harimau medium tank was unveiled at the 15th International Defense Fair, literally meaning 'Tiger' in both Turkish and Indonesian. (FNSS Defence Systems)

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.

The long-range anti-ship missile Atmaca, built by Turkish defence company Roketsan, tested in Turkiye's Black Sea province Sinop, 04 February 2021.
The long-range anti-ship missile Atmaca, built by Turkish defence company Roketsan, tested in Turkiye's Black Sea province Sinop, 04 February 2021. (Courtesy of: Roketsan)

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.

TCG Büyükada (F-512), the second Ada-class corvettes to be built by Turkiye is seen in this undated file photo.
TCG Büyükada (F-512), the second Ada-class corvettes to be built by Turkiye is seen in this undated file photo. (File photo)

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

The Istanbul (F-515) frigate was launched from Istanbul, on January 23, 2021. (AA)
The Istanbul (F-515) frigate was launched from Istanbul, on January 23, 2021. (AA) (AA)

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.

Source: TRT World