In the decade following the fall of the eastern bloc, Turkey was the world’s largest arms importer.1 The country has been heavily relying on weapon imports for its attempts to crush Kurdish resistance. The report from Human Rights Watch « Weapons Transfers and Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey » published in 1995 illustrates well the Turkish forces’ dependence on western countries. Fighter bombers, helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, ammunition, light weapons… these arms sold or given by NATO countries have been used to perpetuate war crimes, extrajudicial executions, torture, indiscriminate fire and the punitive destruction of more than 2.200 Kurdish villages in the 90s alone.2
In recent times, companies in NATO countries are finding ways to continue and expand lucrative relations with the Turkish state, despite their worsening human rights record and reputation on the world stage, while Turkey is also seeking out new partners for arms projects among weaker NATO states such as Italy and post-Brexit Britain. By setting up joint venture projects and third-party companies in Turkey and selling their knowledge, consultancy and expertise rather than hardware itself, European companies are able to:
• circumnavigate laws intended to limit their dealings with the Turkish state
•extract profits from the Erdoğan government’s military-nationalist project
• cement lucrative, long-lasting relationships with the Turkish state and its military-industrial complex despite trends toward self-sufficiency in the Turkish arms market
Accordingly, at least 6 of the top 10 and 40% of the world’s top twenty-five arms companies have established joint venture projects, daughter companies or knowledge-sharing agreements with the Turkish state in recent years.
Reducing dependency on imported weapons has become an increasing priority for the Turkish government, in line with the AKP party’s ultra-nationalist agenda and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strongman image. Following the imposition of the state of emergency, in 2017 Erdoğan put the Turkish arms industry directly under his control.3
Germany and Turkey have priviledged trading relations, in the civil sector as well as in the military one. In fact, Berlin is Ankara’s most important trade partner. Germany is the world’s fifth weapons exporter, and a key partner in the building of Turkey’s military power.4 Germany sold 6.2 billion euros worth of weapons in 2017,5 of which 62 million came from Turkey.6 During the past decade, Germany has been the second biggest weapons dealer for the Turkish state.7 Germany has been providing Turkey with a large amount of second-hand military equipment, including 397 « Leopard 1A3 » tanks in the 80s and 90s and 354 « Leopard 2A4 » between 2005 and 2014, as well as 32 RF-4E jets. The Leopard 2 and the F4 were later modernized and were used during the invasion of Afrin as well as in the repression of the Kurdish liberation movement in North Kurdistan. Berlin also provided more than 500 german-made MTU-881 Diesel engines for T-155 Fırtına Howitzers (artillery), which were used to bomb the canton of Afrin. Germany also provided Ankara with large quantities of second-hand weapons, notably from ex GDR stocks, such as 300 BTR-60 armored personnel carriers.7 These weapons have been extensively used to repress Kurdish resistance in northern Kurdistan.
Rheinmetall, with sales amounting to 3.4 billion dollars in 2017, is Germany’s largest arms manufacturer.13 Through joint venture companies, technical support and expertise, the company is able to circumvent arms exporting laws.3 It is a critical partner in the building of the new generation Turkish tank « Altay ». In internal papers published in 2015, Rheinmetall mentioned this project, citing it at around 7 billion dollars.
The new generation Turkish tank « Altay » is powered by a 1,500 hp diesel engine manufactured by Germany’s MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH. MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH was acquired by Rolls-Royce in 2011.3
ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems is the world’s 53rd largest arms dealer. For almost 50 years, Turkey has been ordering submarines from ThyssenKrupp.9 The company signed a two billion euro contract in 2011 to sell six Type-214 submarines being built in Turkey in the Gölcük Naval Shipyard. Delivery is scheduled for 2019-2024.1
Heckler & Koch describes itself as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of small arms.10 It is estimated that the weapons sold by the company killed more than 2 million people. The main Turkish infantry weapon is the G3A7, a Turkish version of the Heckler & Koch G3 produced under licence. It is currently being replaced by the turkish MPT-76.1011
The USA have been the Turkish state’s main weapons suppliers for the past decade.7 The United States supplied 76 percent of all Turkish weapons between 1987 and 1991, and 80 percent between 1991 and 1993. An extensive military aid program has provided Turkey with more than 5 billion dollars between 1986 and 1995. Turkey has also received large deliveries of surplus U.S. and NATO weaponry for free.12
Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest arms dealer, with 44.9 billion dollars worth of sales in 2017.13 The company was created by a 1995 merger of Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta.
Lockheed manufactures military aircraft including the F16 and F35 warplanes, missiles, gunships, radar, weapons control systems, satellites and spacecraft.
The backbone of the Turkish air force is the F–16 Falcon developed by Lockheed Martin. Through a joint venture with Turkish Aircraft Industries (TAI), Turkey co-produces F-16 Fighting Falcons, manufacturing up to 75 percent of its own F-16 order. The company provides the Turkish airforce with technologies such as Sniper ATPs and LANTIRN ER that upgrade its abilities, as well as precision missiles Hellfire II, which can be launched from aircrafts as well as drones.14
F16s were used in the Roboski massacre in 2011, where 34 people who were engaged in cross border trading were killed by Turkish F16s. The victims were mostly teenagers.
In January 2015 the Turkish military ordered four F35 Lockheed Martin fighter jets, in addition to those it had already ordered. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said. “It is planned that Turkey will buy 100 F35 warplanes in the project. We previously ordered two in this framework. We have now decided to order four more.”
Lockheed states that their $399 billion F35 project is the “world’s most expensive weapons programme.”
Turkish arms companies, which are manufacturing components for the F-35, are also making billions from the contract.
In September 2015, Lockheed announced that it was producing and supplying Turkey with a “next-generation, air-to-surface standoff cruise missile for the F35 fighter jet,” partnering with Turkish arms company Roketsan. The deal was done at the DSEI arms fair in London. The companies stated that they would provide “live flight testing on Turkish F-16s.”
Meanwhile, Turkish warplanes are continuing their ongoing attacks on Kurdish villages in the Qandil region of Iraqi Kurdistan, where the PKK has its main bases. Arms industry website Janes stated that on March 14 2016 “ nine Lockheed companies Martin F16 Fighting Falcons and two McDonald Douglas F-4 2020 Phantom aircraft were involved in the strikes against the PKK’s main headquarters area in the Qandil Mountains.”
In reality, the fighter jets, accompanied by drones, destroyed Kurdish villagers’ houses during the bombardments.
Lockheed Martin and the Turkish government’s cozy relationship continues, and on the March 15 2016, the two were in talks, discussing the possibility of the arms company providing Turkey with an “urgent” Medium Extended Air Defence System (MEADS).
United Technologies Corporation is the world’s 11th largest arms dealer, and sold 7.8 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017.13 The company launched a project in 2018 in collaboration with Alp Aviation systems to produce automatic fire/explosion suppression systems for Turkish military ground vehicles.15
L-3 Communications is the world’s 12th largest arms dealer, and sold 7.8 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017.13
L-3 communications owns 40% of AYESAŞ, a joint venture project with the Turkish Zorlu Group. AYESAŞ focuses on mobile radar and technology solutions.3
Boeing is the world’s 2nd largest arms dealer, and sold 26.9 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017.13
Boeing provided the Turkish air force with four « Peace Eagle airborne early warning and control » (AEW&C) aircrafts in 2014 and 2015 for 1.6 billion dollars.16
Boeing delivered ten Chinook CH-47F transport helicopters for 531 million dollars in 2016 and 2018 .7
Raytheon is the world’s 3rd largest arms dealer, and sold 23.8 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017. 13
Raytheon may deliver 1,000 Joint Direct Attack Munitions to Turkey worth 70 million dollars,
believed to be the first time that the US has allowed these kits for guiding ‘dumb’ bombs to be sold
Harris corporation is the world’s 31st largest arms dealer. The company provided electronic warfare systems for the Turkish F-16 fleet.17
Recently, Britain is emerging as Turkey’s new major Western weapons supplier, moving ahead to replace the U.S.’s historic role.18
BAE Systems is Europe’s largest arms dealer, and the world’s 4th. The company sold 22.9 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017.13
Turkey is developping its first indigenous next generation fighters jet, the TF-X. Under a $125 million agreement, BAE Systems is providing know-how for the program’s conceptual design phase. On April 26 2018, Turkish state-controlled companies TAI and Aselsan signed a memorandum for their cooperation in developing this aircraft and a radar, electro-optical systems, mission-control systems and integration of these systems to the future aircraft.18
BAE and Turkey’s Nurol have formed FNSS which is a leading manufacturer and supplier of tracked and wheeled armored combat vehicles and weapon systems for the Turkish Armed Forces and Allied Armed Forces.
BAE is currently upgrading F-16s for the Turkish Air Force.19
Rolls-Royce has offered Turkey its EJ2000 engine to power the next generation of Turkish jets, TF-X. The EJ200 is a collaborative engine between Rolls-Royce, MTU, Avio and ITP.18
The Land Rover Defender vehicle is produced under license by Turkish company Otokar, and Otokar’s Akrep jeep is based on Land Rover Defender vehicles. Land Rover, now part of Jaguar Land Rover, applied for military export licenses from the UK to Turkey in 2010 and 2014. Jaguar Land Rover is a UK based company owned by Indian company, Tata motors. It is based in Coventry. Land Rover has a strong relationship with Warwick University and Coventry University. The company also has locations in Coventry, Cardiff, Warwickshire and Solihull.
Mira is a british automotive engineering and development consultancy company that recently signed a deal with differents Turkish companies, including Katmerciler and Savronik. Both of them provide weapons to Turkish forces. The agreement aims to bolster cooperation in the field of unmanned technologies. It involves co-development programs, production in Turkey, and sales to Turkey, Britain and other countries.18
Mira was bought in 2015 by the Japanese company Horiba.
Israel and Turkey have long shared a strategic partnership, in military as well as civilian trade. Turkey was among the first countries to recognize the state of Israel, and the first muslim majority country to do so. In the 90s, Israeli pilots were training in Turkish airspace and Turkish fighter jets in Israeli airspace through joint exercices. More joint exercices were held in Turkish airspace in 2001. The Israeli army supplied Turkey in 2005 with high-tech surveillance equipment to help Turkish forces cover the border between northern and southern Kurdistan (occupied respectively by Turkey and Iraq), an area where the Kurdish resistance is very active.20(6)
For the past decade, Turkey has been the Isreali weapon industry’s number one customer. In 2009, Ankara bought around 320 millions dollars worth of weapons off Israel. The commercial relations between the two countries were affected after the attack in 2010 on the Gaza flotilla in which 10 Turkish citizens were killed by Israeli forces.21
Israel Aerospace Industries is the world’s 41st largest arms dealer and sold 2.4 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017.13 It is entirely owned by the Israeli state.22
The company developed the IAI Heron drones. Eleven Herons were delivered to Turkey in 2010, for a cost of 193 million dollars.7
Through the company ELTA, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, Israel supplied advanced electronic warfare systems to the Turkish Air Force in 2013. The electronic system will “significantly upgrade the capacities of the Turkish Air Force’s early-warning planes”.23
IMI Systems is owned by the Israeli state and belongs to Elbit Systems, which is the world’s 28th largest weapons dealer. The company rebuilt in 2010 Turkey’s M-60A1 American-owned tanks into Sabra-3 (M-60T) for 688 million dollars.7
Rafael is the world’s 45th largest weapons dealer.13 It produces the AGM-142A/Popeye-1, a precision air-to-surface missile. 46 Popeye were provided for Turkish F-4 fighter jets until the beginning of the 2000s, in a 90 million dollar deal.7
In the 90s and beginning of the 2000s, France sold 50 second-hand Cougar AS-532 transport helicopters for 683 millions dollars.7
Thales, with the French state as its majority shareholder , is the world’s 8th largest arms dealer and sold 9 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017.13
Through a daughter company in Turkey, Thales delivers installations, site tests and commissioning, software tests, maintenance, project management and training capabilities.
In 2002, Thales created the joint-venture Yaltes along with a Turkish partner. Yaltes locally provides technologies, system integration solutions and system lifecycle support in the fields of Maritime Warfare Management Systems, Integrated Platform Control & Monitoring Systems for Vessels, and Network-supported Abilities. In 2011, Thales took over Yaltes.
Thales and ASELSAN signed a cooperation agreement in 2015 to continue the joint development of a Missile Launcher System.
Thales and the Turkish industry have been working closely together on several programs, including 3D Radar Modernization, Helmet Mounted Sight Display with Aselsan, Genesis with Havelsan and Göktürk with TAI.24
Thales is also a main supplier for the Turkish navy.
The company provided Turkish forces with 3D radars for surveying military air space, tactical radios used by Turkish Special Forces and tactical SATCOM systems used by land forces.25
Thales is a key player in the Göktürk-1 project, a Turkish spy satellite. The satellite is now in orbit and in use by the Turkish military. This project involves both direct sales to the Turkish state, and joint-venture development on the ground.3
Leonardo is the world’s 9th largest arms dealer, and sold 8.8 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017.13
Leonardo’s main shareholder is the Italian state (30.2%).26 It has long operated a subsidiary company in Turkey under the name of Selex ES Elektronik Turkey. This company is now being rebranded and expanded. It sells a growing number of high technology products that are now manufactured, supported and sold directly by Selex ES Elektronik Turkey AS to the Turkish market and to other export markets.3
The F-16 fighter jet used by Turkey to bomb the Kurdish resistance, notably in Afrin, includes laser targeting systems produced by Leonardo.27
The T-129 ATAK attack helicopters are produced as a joint venture between Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and Leonardo. A 2.9 billion dollars deal for fifty-one helicopters was finalised in 2008, and in 2010, Leonardo sold a further nine T-129 attack helicopters to Turkey in a deal worth 150 million euros.28 The helicopters were used during Afrin’s invasion.
SAAB is the world’s 36th largest weapons dealer, and sold 2.6 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017.13
SAAB provided technical advice during the conceptual phase of the Turkish next generation fighter aircraft TF-X. Negociations are being held for further collaborations, and if they succeed SAAB’s technological know-how will once again be available to improve Turkish jets.
In 2014 SAAB signed a “Memorandum of Understanding”-agreement with the Turkish company ROKTESAN covering collaboration on missile systems.
SCANIA’s interest in the Turkish military complex lies with providing vehicles and engines for the Turkish armed forces. In Turkey SCANIA mainly cooperates with two local firms, HEMA and OTOKAR.
HEMA DEFENCE has cooperated with SCANIA to produce a tank transporter for the Turkish army; HEMA produces the trailer while SCANIA makes the truck.
OTOKAR is the main supplier of armored vehicles for the Turkish army and is the largest private defence industry company in Turkey. Tulpar is the name of their infantry fighting vehicle, and SCANIA provides the engine for it. The vehicle is produced and is targeted at both the Turkish army and the export market.30
SSAB is a leading producer of armored steel and the Swedish state, through LKAB, is a shareholder. SSAB armored steel is used by the Turkish firm OTOKAR for armored vehicles. The OTOKAR COBRA APC uses armored steel manufactured by SSAB for its protection . The COBRA vehicle has been extensively used by Turkey in its war against the Kurds.30
Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA is part of Airbus since 2000.29
The company develops the transport aircraft CN-235, of which 61 were sold to the Turkish air force in the 90s and the 2000s. Turkey assembled them from kits on its own soil.7
In 2012, Denmark delivered 143 second-hand AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground
missiles. The Maverick are precision-guided missiles commonly used by F-4 and
F-16 aircrafts. The missiles are produced by Raytheon.7
MBDA is a trans-European conglomerate formed as a joint venture by a merger of the guided missile divisions of Airbus, Leonardo, and BAE Systems. MBDA owns Turkish company Eurosam. The Turkish state has awarded Eurosam a contract for the definition study of the future Turkish Long Range Air and Missile Defence System.331
Airbus is the world’s 7th largest arms dealer and sold 11.2 billion dollars worth of weapons in 2017.13 The main shareholders of the aerospace and arms company are the French state (11.1%) and the German Gesellschaft zur Beteiligungsverwaltung (11%).32
In a new deal penned at the time of the Afrin invasion, Airbus committed to acquisitions worth 5 billion dollars from the Turkish industry between 2020 and 2030.33
On 9 November 2017 Turksat, the Turkish state-run satellite operator, signed a contract with Airbus Defence and Space for two new-generation communications satellites, Turksat 5A and Turksat 5B.
Though these satellites are for civil use, Turksat is “an important stakeholder in the defence and aerospace industry” and the chairman of Turksat’s board of directors emphasised the links between their aerospace developments and the booming Turkish defence industry in a recent interview.34
Turksat officials say the contract to build and launch satellites will be worth about $500 million. For those two satellites, the local contractors are Aselsan and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). The local satellite, 5B, will cost $141 million.3
Seven out ouf ten A400M Atlas transport aircrafts were delivered to the Turkish forces.7 The planes made by Airbus are long-range military transport and represent a multi-national development effort.35
Saudi Arabia supplied six second-hand C-130E Hercules transport aircrafts to Turkey in 2011.7 The Hercules are produced by Lockheed.
China sold 200 B-611 surface-to-surface missiles, produced under licence in Turkey by Roketsan as ‘Yildirim’ between 2002 and 2012.7
2 HRW, Weapons Transfers and Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey, 1995
3 Rojava Information Center’s report : New trends in Western support for Turkish arms industry
7 SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
30 No support for Erdogan, swedish support for Turkey and its jihadis