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Turkey’s Arms Sales Reach ‘Record High’

Turkey's Arms Sales Reach 'Record High'

Photo Credit: Presidency Office of the Turkish Republic

While Turkish foreign policy makers have been emphasizing concepts such as ‘soft power’ and ‘zero-problems policy’ after the ascent of the AKP government in 2002, the Arab Spring effectively heralded an era in which Turkey is retaining its soft power advantages, while simultaneously pursuing a more Realist (as in IR theory) outlook, similar to its pre-2002 Kemalist foreign policy.

The best example of Turkey’s renewed emphasis on ‘high politics’ is its consistently record breaking arms sales. In 2009, prominent Hurriyet Daily News had already reported a new record in Turkish arms sales. Turkish Defense Industry Manufacturers Association (SaSad) statistics indicated that “despite the global financial crisis” Turkey had exported $669-million worth defense equipment in 2009. According to SaSad figures, the Turkish defense industry exported arms worth $331 million in 2003, $196 million in 2004, $337 million in 2005, $352 million in 2006 and $420 million in 2007. Out of the 2008 figure of $576 million, a 33 percent went to space and aviation; another 29 percent to land vehicles and other platforms; 13 percent to electronics and electro-optics; 9 percent to weapons, ammunition, rockets and missiles; 9 percent to software and information technologies; and another 7 percent other sectors.

Recent data, published by the government arms production/supply agency, Machinery and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKEK) indicates that Turkey broke another record in 2011 selling worth 850-million Turkish Lira defense equipment across “five continents”, also receiving worth 350-million TL orders from Turkey’s various defense agencies.  MKEK indicated that the chief buyer of Turkish defense productions is Saudi Arabia, which bought 44.6 million TL-worth supplies, including the 9,350 SS30 rocket artillery, which has a range of up to 30 miles. Following Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman emerged as the chief buyers of Turkish arms. Panama, Philippines and Switzerland are also mentioned as important buyers. Domestically, MKEK oversees the nationalization of Turkey’s arms production along 127 R&D projects, including national tank, infantry rifle, support rifle, sniper rifle and portable howitzer projects with a combined budget of 283 million TL.

For a detailed account of Turkey’s booming defense industry, see: Robert Ackerman, ‘Turkey’s Defense Industry Matures’ – Signal Magazine. September 2010



Akin Unver

Dr. Ünver is an assistant professor of international relations at Kadir Has University, Istanbul.

Previously he was the Ertegün Lecturer of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, Near Eastern Studies department - the only academic to retain this prestigious fellowship for two consecutive years. He conducted his joint post-doctoral studies at the University of Michigan’s Center for European Studies and the Center for the Middle East and North African Studies, where he authored several articles on Turkish politics, most notable of which is ”Turkey’s deep-state and the Ergenekon conundrum”, published by the Middle East Institute.

Born and raised in Ankara, Turkey, he graduated from T.E.D. Ankara College in 1999 and earned his B.A. in International Relations from Bilkent University (2003) and MSc in European Studies from the Middle East Technical University (2005). He received his PhD from the Department of Government, University of Essex, where his dissertation, ‘A comparative analysis of the discourses on the Kurdish question in the European Parliament, US Congress and Turkish National Assembly‘ has won the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) 2010 Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award in Social Sciences.

Akın also assumed entry-level policy positions at the European Union Secretariat-General, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eurasian Center for Strategic Studies (ASAM) and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (D.C.), as well as teaching positions at the University of Essex (Theories of International Relations) and Sabancı University (Turkey and the Middle East).

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