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Domestic Arms Industry

Since the mid-1980s, Turkey has been engaged in a wide-ranging program to develop a modern defense industry based on cooperation with firms in other countries. Previously, Turkey's economic and industrial capacity was insufficient to produce weapons as sophisticated as those of Western Europe. In the early years of the republic, the government sponsored a number of arms factories intended primarily to supply basic infantry weapons and ammunition. After World War II, Turkey's efforts to bring its military establishment up to modern standards depended almost totally on military assistance and credits from its NATO partners. After the imposition of the limited embargo by the United States in 1975, Turkey launched a series of projects to reduce its dependence on imports of major military items. Initial results took the form of a broader range of domestically produced light weapons and artillery and the development of an electronics industry oriented toward battlefield communications and the requirements of military aircraft.

In 1985 new legislation centralized efforts to launch an up-to-date arms industry under a new agency--the Defense Industry Development and Support Administration (later the Ministry of National Defense Undersecretariat for Defense Indus- tries, known as SSM) with its own source of capital, the Defense Industry Support Fund. The fund does not depend on national defense budget appropriations but receives earmarked revenues directly--10 percent of taxes on fuel, 5 percent of individual and corporate income taxes, and taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Most of the major projects encouraged by SSM have been international joint ventures and coproduction enterprises. In most cases, the foreign partner must agree to an offset provision, that is, a commitment to purchase some part of the resulting production, or components or other goods manufactured in Turkey.

The Turkish defense industry employs about 50,000 individuals at 110 firms, many of them state owned. About 1,000 additional firms participate in defense business as subcontractors. The largest producer of weaponry in Turkey, with about 12,000 employees, is Makina ve Kimya Endüstrisi Kurumu (MKEK), controlled by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. MKEK meets the requirements of the Turkish armed forces for light arms (including the M-3 and MG-3 rifles and a machine gun of German design), ammunition, and explosives. It also produces antiaircraft and antitank guns.

In 1988 rocket and missile production was shifted from MKEK to a new company, Roket Sanayii (ROKETSAN). ROKETSAN has the largest share in the production of the propulsion system and rocket assembly for the four-country European consortium manufacturing the Stinger SAM. The company also plans to produce multi-launch rocket systems (MLRS) in partnership with a United States firm, the LTV Corporation. A consortium formed by a United States firm, FMC Corporation, and a Turkish firm, Nurol, is projected to produce 1,700 APCs and armored fighting vehicles by 1997.

Turkish arms manufacturers' most ambitious undertaking has been a consortium with United States firms to produce F-16 fighter aircraft. Under this arrangement, airframes for the F-16s are produced in a factory at Mürted Air Base near Ankara by TÜSAS (Türk Uçak Sanayi Sirketi) Aerospace Industries, with 51 percent ownership by Turkish interests, 42 percent by General Dynamics, and 7 percent by General Electric. The engine plant near Eskisehir is a joint venture with General Electric.

The project, whose total cost is projected at US$4.2 billion, is expected to result in the delivery of 240 F-16C/Ds to the Turkish air force between the late 1980s and the late 1990s. Additional funds were pledged to the Turkish Defense Fund (TDF) after the Persian Gulf War by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, to be paid over a five-year period. Under an October 1994 agreement, Turkey requested that the TDF, which thus far amounted to some US$1.8 billion, be transferred to Turkey. Most of the TDF funds are to be used to cover the cost of eighty F-16 aircraft, of which forty were agreed upon in March 1992 and forty more in February 1994. Through offset arrangements, F-16 components and engines produced in Turkey are exported to the United States. Egypt ordered forty-six F-16s to be delivered between 1993 and 1995.

Communications equipment and electronic warfare systems for the Turkish military are produced by ASELSAN Military Electronics Industries, a state-owned company whose dominant shareholder is OYAK. ASELSAN manufactures under license a United States-designed family of manpack and vehicular battlefield radios and voice scramblers. It supplies the inertial navigation systems and fire control for the TÜSAS F-16 project and produces components for the Stinger missile program.

In addition to its coproduction role in the F-16 project, TÜSAS has contracted with Agusta, the Italian aircraft manufacturer, to produce forty SF-260 trainers at the Mürted plant. A contract with Construcciones Aeronáuticas, S.A. (CASA) of Spain calls for joint production of fifty-two CN-235 light transport aircraft. A US$1.1 billion agreement was concluded in 1992 with Sikorsky covering direct procurement of forty-five Black Hawk helicopters, with an additional fifty helicopters to be coproduced in Turkey by 1999.

Much of Turkey's indigenous naval construction has been carried out with cooperation from German shipbuilders. Four frigates of the MEKO-200 class were being built in 1995 at the main naval shipyard at Gölcük where three submarines of the 209-class (type-1200) had been built; four type-1400 submarines are scheduled to be commissioned between 1994 and 1998. Dogan-class fast-attack boats armed with Harpoon missiles have been produced in Turkish yards, as well as destroyer escorts, patrol boats, landing craft, and auxiliary craft. In 1993 private shipyards were invited to bid on construction of minesweepers and patrol boats.

The effort to create a modern defense industry on a narrow technological base was risky for Turkish defense planners. However, it appears to have been successful in enabling Turkey to rely on domestic sources to meet an increasing portion of its advanced equipment needs. The results have included reductions in costs and in the demand for foreign exchange, as well as the opening of foreign markets, mainly through offset provisions. As of the mid-1990s, the anticipated development of a Middle Eastern market for finished products did not appear to have occurred, based on available arms export data. A broader goal was to set new standards for quality and productivity in Turkish industry generally and thus increase the country's competitiveness through the lead established by the defense industry.

Internal Security Concerns

Since the late 1960s, Turkey has been plagued by recurrent political violence. Radical groups responsible for terrorism have included movements of both leftist and rightist orientation, as well as ethnic and religious extremists. By far the most serious source of violence since the mid-1980s has been the Kurdish separatist insurgency, which by the mid-1990s had nearly assumed the character of a civil war in the southeastern area of the country bordering Syria and Iraq.

During the 1970s, various political groups--particularly ones on the left--used violence in the hope that civil disorder and the consequent suppression by the state might lead to revolution. In the months preceding the assumption of power by Turkey's generals in September 1980, the toll of political killings rose to more than twenty a day. The government's repression of political activism and the detention of an estimated 30,000 persons suspected of terrorism were accompanied by arrests of union members, university students, and journalists. The stern measures of the military commanders were vehemently criticized by Turkish intellectuals and foreign observers; however, the measures did reduce the violence.

Even after civilian rule was restored in 1983, the continuation of martial law in certain areas, the expansion of police powers, and legal constraints on political movements dampened politically inspired violence. Terrorist incidents continued to occur in urban areas, but these were for the most part individually targeted bombings and assassinations, including attacks on United States installations and personnel. The number of such incidents peaked at seventy-five in 1991, most of them attributed to leftist protests against Turkey's strategic role in the international coalition against Iraq. Nevertheless, the preoccupying security issue for the Turkish government continued to be the mounting separatist insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkere Kurdistan--PKK). The uprising of Kurds in northern Iraq after the Persian Gulf War focused attention on the condition of Kurds in general; the PKK used the occasion to intensify its military operations in the Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey.

Data as of January 1995

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