Why is Turkey’s Defense Industry Booming? – The Arab Wall
Why is Turkey’s Defense Industry Booming?

Why is Turkey’s Defense Industry Booming?

In recent times, there has been a noteworthy development in the Turkish defense industry sector, particularly in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Turkey has shown a strong commitment to advancing UAV technology and has successfully produced advanced and unprecedented models. This commitment became evident when Ankara announced on August 26th of the previous year that it was preparing to launch two new UAVs, further expanding its list of military UAVs utilized for combat, reconnaissance, and surveillance purposes.

The first of these UAVs is named “Gökkuşağı,” and it falls into the category of small tactical UAVs. The second UAV, though not yet officially named, is characterized by its compact size and its capability to be launched from vehicles.

Over the past decade, Turkey has established a prominent position in the defense industry, primarily due to increased defense budgets and the dominance of Turkish UAVs and armored vehicles manufactured by companies such as “Bayraktar” for UAV production and ASELSAN, a specialized firm in defense electronic industries. These companies have secured a significant share of the international arms export market.

Key Indicators

  1. Advancements in UAV Production: Turkey has achieved significant progress in producing multiple generations of UAVs, with the hybrid UAV “Gökkuşağı” now in its final testing phase. In addition, “Robit Technology” completed the versatile UAV “Azab” in March 2023, equipped with various technological advantages and technical features. It’s noteworthy that Turkey has undertaken various UAV production projects, including the prominent “Bayraktar Akıncı,” the first Turkish armed UAV, as well as other distinguished UAVs like “Bayraktar Akıngüç,” “Bayraktar TB2,” “Aksungur,” “Anka,” and “Karayel.”
  1. Modernization of F-16 Aircraft: Due to ongoing resistance from the U.S. Congress regarding the supply of advanced F-16 aircraft to Turkey, the Justice and Development Party government initiated the second phase of the domestic “Ozgur 2” program on August 4th of this year. This program aims to upgrade the fleet of American-made F-16 fighter aircraft, specifically the F-16 Block-30/40/50 models operated by the Turkish Air Force.
  1. Development of Advanced Air Defense Systems: Recognizing the necessity of a modern and advanced air defense system capable of countering aerial and ballistic threats from beyond its borders, Turkey decided to pursue the development of a domestic defense system in recent months. This decision stemmed from challenges in acquiring the American “Patriot” missile defense system and escalating tensions between Ankara and Western powers following Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 defense system. In August 2022, Turkey achieved a significant milestone by developing the “Siper” long-range air defense missile system, expected to have a range of 30 to 150 kilometers. The “Siper” missile system addresses Ankara’s urgent need to bolster its domestic air defense capabilities, boasting advanced technological and military capabilities.
  1. Ankara’s Ascendance in Defense Industry Rankings: Turkey has firmly established itself within the global defense industry landscape, as illustrated by the presence of four Turkish companies in the top 100 defense industry rankings for the year 2023, as reported by the American magazine “Defense News.”

These rankings highlight the impressive progress made by three Turkish companies compared to the previous year (2022). In the current year, ASELSAN, specializing in defense electronics, advanced from the 49th position to the 47th position, underscoring its remarkable growth. Similarly, TUSAŞ, focused on aerospace and aviation manufacturing, made significant strides, ascending from the 67th position to the 58th position on the list.

On the other hand, ROKETSAN, a missile manufacturer, achieved notable progress by climbing six positions, ascending from the 86th position in 2022 to the 80th position in the current year. Additionally, ASFAT, responsible for managing military factories and arsenals under the Turkish Ministry of Defense, made its debut in the rankings, securing the 100th position.

  1. Multifaceted Advantages of Turkish Defense Industries: The impressive strides in the Turkish defense industry extend beyond technological advancements and firepower; they encompass competitive pricing and the availability of spare parts for these products. Furthermore, a pivotal advantage lies in the exceptional quality and precision of these products, complemented by Ankara’s commitment to technology transfer related to these products for friendly and partner countries.

Various Contributing Factors

The remarkable growth in the Turkish defense industries can be attributed to several key factors, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Economic Gains from Military Exports: In recent years, Turkish defense industries have generated substantial profits, playing a significant role in mitigating a substantial portion of Turkey’s budget deficit. Turkey’s budget faced consecutive challenges due to the sharp depreciation of the local currency (the lira) and deteriorating economic indicators. The value of Turkish military exports reached approximately $4.4 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to reach $6 billion by the end of 2023.
  1. Surging Demand for Turkish UAVs in the Global Arms Market: The global arms market reflects a rising demand for Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in light of their exceptional performance in various conflict zones worldwide. Notably, Turkish UAVs have made a significant impact in conflicts such as those in Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, Ethiopia, and Syria. They have also played a pivotal role in shifting military dynamics during the Ukrainian war, where Turkish UAVs are considered crucial assets relied upon by Kyiv to counter Russian military incursions. Turkey has recently disclosed multiple contracts for the supply of various UAV models to numerous countries across the globe, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.
  1. Decreased Support from Western Allies: The reduced support from Turkey’s Western allies in fulfilling its defense needs has been a driving force behind the promotion of domestic defense industries. Turkey has faced challenges in acquiring advanced weaponry and even in developing its indigenous armament capabilities, which are primarily of Western origin. Turkish concerns escalated as Washington hesitated to provide Turkey with advanced F-16 aircraft models and excluded Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet production program. Furthermore, several European countries halted military spare parts exports to Turkey and imposed arms export bans due to Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria since 2016. In this context, Ankara’s shift towards supporting and localizing domestic defense industries, which have witnessed significant growth in recent years, becomes comprehensible, with Turkish military production increasing from 20% to 80%.
  1. Escalating Concerns Over Traditional Adversaries’ Growing Military Capabilities: The recent advancements in the Turkish defense industry are closely tied to Turkey’s mounting concerns regarding the increasing military capabilities of its traditional adversaries, notably Greece and Cyprus. Turkey has long-standing disputes with both countries, and tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea escalated to a near-conflict with Greece last year.

As Greece and Cyprus have strengthened their military alliances with Washington and various European powers to fulfill their armament needs, Turkey perceives this as a direct threat. Consequently, Turkey has intensified its efforts to bolster its domestic defense industries. There is a prevailing belief in Turkey that, given the continuous enhancement of Greece and Cyprus’s armament capabilities, it has become even more crucial for Turkey to prioritize the strengthening of its own domestic defense industries.

  1. Addressing Non-Traditional Threats: The ongoing development and modernization of the Turkish defense industries are, in part, driven by Ankara’s aspiration to equip itself with the necessary capabilities to counter non-traditional threats. This becomes especially pertinent in the context of the enduring crises in Syria and Libya, the escalating tensions in Central Asia, and the regional security dynamics influenced by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Therefore, the imperative to continually update domestic defense industries across various sectors remains paramount.


In conclusion, Turkey has undeniably made significant advancements in strengthening its domestic defense industries. Nevertheless, several challenges continue to hinder this progress. Chief among these challenges is the ongoing economic crisis affecting the country, along with the pressures exerted by Western nations on Turkey’s defense industry sector. Notably, this is exemplified by the persistent imposition of American sanctions on Turkish defense industry entities. Furthermore, Turkey’s UAV sector is now facing competition from emerging players, including Iran, whose UAVs have gained considerable popularity in the region and beyond.