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Following Saudi drone deal, Turkey's Erdogan targets $6B in defense sales

Speaking at the opening of Turkey’s largest defense fair, the Turkish president has pledged to raise military exports by 36% while his defense industry chief reveals that last week’s drone deal with Riyadh alone was worth $3.1 billion.

IZMIR, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Turkey expected to reach $6 billion in arms sales in 2023, hoping for a nearly 36.3% rise from last year’s $4.4 billion. 

“We have already achieved a record export level of $2.3 billion in the first half of the year,” Erdogan said in a video message to the International Defense Industry Fair 2023 (IDEF’23), held in Istanbul between July 25-28.  

The Turkish defense and aeronautics sector’s export revenues passed the $4 billion mark in 2022, up from $3.2 billion in 2021. The sharp defense export rise is attributed mainly to aerospace and the country’s popular drones used by more than 30 countries. 

Turkey's leading exporter of armed drones, Baykar Technology, clinched two billion-dollar contracts with Saudi Arabia's Defense Ministry to transfer technology and jointly produce its advanced Akinci drones. Haluk Bayraktar, the chairman of Baykar and an avid Erdogan supporter, said the deal had been in the works for a year. Though Bayraktar called the agreement “the largest one ever made by a Turkish firm,” he kept mum about its details, timing and exact amount, keeping defense analysts hedging bets between $1.5 and $5 billion. 

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