Turkey’s defense exports reached $4.4 billion last year, the country's highest level ever, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.
“Our defense exports … reached $4.4 billion, breaking a record,” Erdogan said at a delivery ceremony for six next-generation Firtina howitzers in Turkey’s northwestern province of Sakarya. The howitzers were locally manufactured by the joint Qatari-Turkish venture BMC.
Erdogan added that the total budget of defense industry projects exceeded $60 billion with R&D spending reaching some $1.5 billion annually. Ismail Demir, the head of the Presidency of Defense Industries, said last week that they were aiming to increase export revenues to at least $6 billion in 2023. Turkey registered $3.2 billion export turnover in 2021.
Indigenous aerial vehicles, particularly Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 armed drones manufactured by Baykar, which is owned by the family of Erdogan’s younger son-in-law, have significantly contributed to the annual turnover.
Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar announced last week that the company’s revenues from exports reached $1.18 billion last year with the number of buyer countries increasing to 27. Albania became the second NATO member to purchase the Bayraktars last month along with Poland.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has boosted the international popularity of the Bayraktar drones, with Kyiv composing a song for the aerial vehicles’ success against the Russian army. The drones were also useful in tipping the scale in favor of Ankara’s allies in the Libyan and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts.
Turkey’s defense industry has faced setbacks after EU defense embargoes over its military operations against the Syrian Kurdish groups and US sanctions over its purchase of Russian S-400 systems.
Indigenous defense projects stand out as a major theme in Erdogan's election campaign as he is facing one of his toughest election bids in decades amid skyrocketing price rises and breakneck inflation.
“The defense industry has been one of the fields in which Turkey has broken its chains,” Erdogan said. “We see these achievements as an introduction to our ‘Century of Turkey’ vision,” he added in reference to his electoral motto.