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Issue 70 Interview
Undersecretary for Defense Industries “a Complementary Component, a Catalyzing Factor Ushering Turkish Defense Projects Forward”

Defence Turkey Magazine gains the meticulous insight of Undersecretary for Defense Industries Prof. İsmail Demir in this exclusive interview

Defence Turkey: Dear Undersecretary, first of all I would like to thank you for your time. Taking into consideration the critical period we have been going through recently in our country and in our region, could you please inform us on your strategies and plans for the upcoming period as the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries?
Actually, as the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries we are exerting our best efforts to advance in line with a certain strategy by avoiding the current developments. Without doubt the current issues have an influence on the process as well. Requirements and demands began to change in parallel with the emergence of concepts such as urban militarism. We have a pattern of behavior towards speeding up our actions in order to fulfill urgent requests. We have been experiencing numerous developments that are constantly reminding us of the importance of a self-sufficient defense industry when the overall conjuncture of the world is taken into account and the attitude adopted by Turkey during various foreign affairs or strategic issues are considered. Therefore, regarding the defense industry products we release to the field, we once again perceive that we need to pursue the indigenousness and independency to the maximum, being adopted by our Armed Forces in a more uncompromising and aggressive manner. To this end, we have to form a structure with a broader base. Surely our major, well-known companies will keep performing certain pioneering roles, yet being broad-based is quite important at this point. All resources of Turkey have to be on the table. We do not claim that all the resources are being used efficiently and I believe that there is a drawback here and by launching this into operation we have to progress through in a more broad-based manner, a more aggressive and more idealistic structure.
Defence Turkey: Are the programs conducted by the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries proceeding in line with the determined project schedule? Could you please give us your assessments?
There are some projects proceeding in accordance with the foreseen project schedule and some are experiencing delays. There is a certain point I have been monitoring since the first day of my assignment; delays occur mostly in the major projects in particular. This reminds us the need for a strict implementation of certain monitoring methods especially in scheduling in Project follow-up. Our companies need to prepare in a better manner as well. Delays tend to occur during the implementation of the defense industry programs in the world, by definition especially during the implementation of the development Projects. Certainly some unexpected delays emerge during R&D or development projects. Then again they have to be avoided before they turn into an accustomedness or an acceptable, normalcy. Therefore, we attach great importance to the timely completion of our projects and their progress in line with the delivery schedule. For that matter, in case of a possible delay, the factors causing it should be identified in advance and measures should be adopted much earlier instead of being notified a few months or six months before the date of delivery. This could merely be achieved through a good follow-up of a project. I am not only speaking of the responsibilities of the staff employed at the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries for the timely accomplishment of the delivery. On the contrary, all the components of the project; the main contractor, the staff employed by the main contractor, all of them have to take note of these. To sum it up, we cannot claim that we have a good and on time delivery performance enough to satisfy us, yet we are striving with the utmost effort on improving it.
Defence Turkey: Is there any message you would like to convey to our international partners who are closely following Turkey and with whom we have intense cooperation with in national and international programs during this period that our country has been going through?
Our daily lives continue in their routine in the business world and in our industry in Turkey. And in terms of the investors, there is no difference in the businesses in respect to the companies building cooperation with Turkey. As a matter of fact, the projects we launch and the amount of support we provide to the projects taken into account, we observe that the support provided not only by the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, but also by the state in general has been increasing further and we see that the focus on technology is increasing in an idealistic manner as government support is becoming more appealing in niche areas. There are many opportunities in Turkey and none of them have yet been influenced by the recent developments. From an external perspective it is quite possible that the image may be distorted by certain elements. We are well informed about this but we perceive a quite different picture from where we stand. Our foreign partners collaborating with us, representatives of foreign companies and representatives of various states get the picture in a clearer way and they exert intense efforts to inform their countries on this situation. Still, a single voice may not be sufficient as there is a need for straightening the image. Genuinely, everyone has focused on their daily routines and business at the moment in Turkey. The inviting atmosphere in Turkey, especially for foreign investors has been continuing and increasing. The opportunities in respect to areas of technology and R&D have been increasing each day. We, as the Undersecretariat, are constantly giving the following message to our counterparts in terms of stimulating the entrepreneurship and enterprises. If you wish to have our support in your investments or business ideas in Turkey, we are always ready to provide you with that support. This is one of our tasks, and we aim to open the way for technology investments and build a success story here by focusing on the industry in Turkey as much as possible. At this point, as the government, we remain as much as we are required and we would never draw back if there is a need for our support. We are continuously repeating this to our respondents.
Defence Turkey: Dear Undersecretary, what type of responsibilities has the SSM been assuming in line with the increasing emergency security requirements? Could you please inform us on your activities to this end?
Surely the demands for major urgent security requirements started to arrive. As the name implies, the requirement is urgent, public opinion is aware of the development processes of certain products and their maturation takes time. Of course, in case of an urgent requirement, when the operations originate telling the owner of the demand to wait for a certain amount of time for the execution of the product’s tests or delivering the product after a year would not solve the case. We are trying to build a balance in this sense. Because, when we utter the words urgent requirement, the supply of any requirement package may take at least a year or longer. We are displaying a more careful approach in long-term bulk procurements. For instance, delivery of a system will take 2 years. In this case, we will immediately deliver the 10% - 20% of the demand in the 3-4 months ahead, launch it into operation, and then if there is a chance of a domestic supply or development of the product we will concentrate on that, otherwise during the fulfillment of the demand from foreign countries we will research ways for the foreign suppliers to perform in Turkey, and exert efforts to find this supplier a partner in Turkey or encourage them to invest in Turkey. This may be through an industrial contribution, offset agreements; as the Undersecretariat we are always trying to find ways of providing advantages to Turkey. It is not always easy to achieve this in cases of urgent demands. Then again, as the packages get bigger we are taking action in order to make it possible. Otherwise, we do not adopt the approach of procuring the products from foreign countries beyond all questions. We need to build a balance at this point. It is not possible to tell the security forces to wait when covering the emergency requirements in the field. But on the other hand, while supplying the products, we continuously analyze the ways of stimulating domestic participation and industrialization. We do have an important responsibility here and we really feel it. I emphasize the word ‘balance’ on purpose because you need to pay attention to the operational requirements while achieving indigenousness. There is a sensitive balance here and we proceed meticulously and maintain our attentive and constant follow-up. Being this careful has not been required this much, during the urgent requirements in lower amounts during earlier times, but with the current increasing amount of urgent procurements we need to be more sensitive.
Defence Turkey: In our understanding, an approach of supplying a certain amount of the urgent demands during the 1st Phase comes to the forefront, and then carrying on in the form of a development project throughout the following phases.
We may enhance the number of the phases. We may conduct the project within 3-4 phases. In other words, the initial plan is direct procurement, within the scope of the second plan we have to analyze the amount of the product that could be provided by Turkey and the rate of our domestic participation. We need to fulfill the urgent requirements in the shortest time possible while enabling domestic participation. That being said, we should never abandon our security forces in the field without our products. We are quite clearly aware of that.
Defence Turkey: Turkey has a number of significant projects on the agenda for the period ahead such as the mass production of MILGEM 5-8 vessels and Altay Main Battle Tank, TF-X Indigenous Fighter Aircraft Program, Armed UAS development program, expecting for their tendering period and of which the activities are ongoing. Will the execution and launch of these projects gain impetus in the upcoming period? What are your evaluations?
Actually, the programs are being accelerated, some projects for instance, you referred to them, such as the Indigenous Fighter Program or the National Submarine, if the preliminary preparations are conducted in a better fashion then their progress will be faster. In other words, there is a misperception that the preliminary preparations last quite long but considering scope and content of a project, if you are not prepared sufficiently and for instance if you are going to be supported by a foreign party and if the details are not well clarified then you will have to deal with several drawbacks during the implementation of the project. We have a Submarine case at this point. Although we signed the contract in 2009, we were able to launch the production just this year. Therefore, it is quite important that the parties agree on certain concepts throughout the preliminary preparations. You need to discuss the details quite deeply, then again it is essential to examine certain points and even discuss the details of the issues which were agreed upon earlier in principle. As such problems emerged in the past, when one party examines an issue that was accepted in principle, other party may deny their own commitments. Human resources remain on the other pier. Of course you fail to accomplish an information source analysis with sufficient and qualified human resources on time and postpone it with overconfidence, well the devil is in the details, then you may be blocked in details and cause greater details in the project. Projects need to be completed in line with an experienced possible duration. If you fail to pursue that completion process in accordance with the foreseen schedule then either your foreign dependence would increase or the project would be accomplished far later than the foreseen deadline. We believe that the aforementioned measures bear great importance.
The second measure is related with the sub-systems and sub-technologies. Today, when speaking of the great platforms, as the platform starts to come to light, the optimists will say “Alright, at least we have a new product, good” while the pessimistic point of view would ask the following questions “How much of this product is indigenous? Part of it comes from another country, how could this product be indigenous?” and frown upon it. Both of these approaches are wrong. If you analyze the optimistic approach, surely it is important to complete and launch the product but we should also be aware of our deficiencies in that product and the technologies that we need to develop. We should conduct a detailed analysis as these deficiencies may block our progress in the future while we continue to improve our technologies. We need to establish a balance at this point. You wish to have a plain product as soon as possible and on the other hand you ask for indigenousness. If you do not mind the extension of the product’s production so that it would be indigenous, then you cannot offer a plain product and still you will be stuck with foreign products. If you do not care, then your foreign dependency would linger. These balances really need to be studied carefully. In a sense, without paying too much attention to the very optimistic and pessimistic approaches I mentioned earlier, one needs to perceive the truth internally and clearly and create long term policies accordingly.
Defence Turkey: Dear Undersecretary, could you please inform us on a few new projects that can be announced to the public opinion within this context?
The new generation MILGEM namely the “I Class” frigates are arriving. The height of our MILGEM corvette grew and it went under certain changes. The design activities of the new generation MILGEM vessels to which we refer as “I Class” frigates were launched, in a word we initiated the Project. We will be building the first ship at the Shipyard of İstanbul Naval Forces. The 5th vessel as part of the MILGEM program will now be the “I Class” frigate. The remaining three “I Class” vessels will be manufactured by private shipyards. We extended an invitation to our private sector shipyards for the tender process to be launched to this end. We issued the call for proposals and at this point we expect the private sector shipyards to come to terms in a way and reach out to us because if our 8 – 9 shipyards attempt to give offers separately then an unnecessary competition would emerge. Of course the competition is necessary, but taking a look at the other examples in the world, if you wish to add players in foreign markets, then you have to adopt a certain scale. Currently the sector also observes the necessity of adopting this approach and approves it. We expect and advise them to gather, unite and to be involved in major projects through forming consortiums. We constantly expressed this wish of ours in form of a recommendation. We believe that such discourses are reacted well and we also collect clues that our companies would be acting accordingly. If this model is adopted, then we are able to establish a powerful maritime sector in Turkey. In this way, we are able to compete stronger with our foreign rivals. Then again this is the market economy, we are merely advisors in a sense, or guides but we may push the limits to a certain extent as the government. Therefore, we merely expect whatever the interests of our country or our sector require to be done. Because sometimes interests of companies or individuals may forestall this approach or sometimes perception from a wider perspective could not be available.
In addition to these, we have the Regional Aircraft and Indigenous Fighter Jet programs. Though they may not seem as noticeable as the aforementioned, as the product emerges the indigenization of the engine of our Main Battle Tank as well as the indigenization of our MILGEM vessels’ engines, establishment of Underwater Air-Independent Propulsion System, Development of Rocket Systems, Development of Long Range Air Defense System or High Altitude Air Defense Systems will be the main projects in the upcoming period which we will work upon. Maybe a Satellite Launcher System creates huge reactions as it emerges. On the other hand, when we accomplish and release an indigenous engine or turbo jet engine, they may not have great influence. Yet all these systems would reduce our foreign dependency and provide significant technological acquisitions to our country. Without doubt, all the scientific approaches, R&D and human resources that will constitute the infrastructure on the way to manufacture these products need to be shaped in parallel with these points. If you do not actualize these then all your commitments would be suspended in the air and the duration of your project would extend. In other words, if the side measures or the preliminary measures are not adopted before the implementation of the project, then there is a possibility that your project would go not only through a postponement but also into a spiral. We experienced such cases in the past.
Defence Turkey: Dear Undersecretary, we observe that our defense industry exports have been ranging at the band of approximately $ 1.6 – 1.8 billion for the last two years. When compared with the relative decline in the export performance of other leading sectors, these figures show that the Defense Industry Exports are doing quite well. Within such a framework, are any strategic attempts being planned for increasing the export figures in the upcoming period?
The Defense Industry is Turkey’s most assertive area and it is where Turkey has the highest export potential. Anyone could see and claim this without hesitation. We are able to realize this potential merely by an intense effort displayed by our country. All efforts to be exerted by our Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Commerce, various institutions and ourselves bear great importance as we remain in the development process of our defense industry and because we need to proceed faster in order to reach our determined point. We express this internally, but when we take a look from an external point of view, we own a series of components lacked by many other countries. And we are capable of presenting quite appealing alternatives as we present them to the world markets. Besides, we closely observed many examples of this. Without doubt, we also observe the disturbance of many conventional exporting countries and companies and watched them increasing the competition to further extents. On one hand a structure capable of challenging this competition needs to be established and on the other hand, we need to exert our efforts in order to promote our products and build a perception for founding a certain level of reputation. Participation in foreign events is one way of achieving this, but government-to-government relations, investments in various countries, joint ventures, official visit, military exercises, etc. are also part of these promotional activities. We will endeavor in order to enable our products to display their best performance in the theatre of operations.. Our companies usually adopt the measures related to their own marketing activities. However, the support of the government is required here as well. Intergovernmental affairs and political conditions carry great importance regarding this point. As the government, we need to be in charge wherever and whenever we are required. Sometimes during negotiations with certain countries, we need to enable the marketing and acceptance of certain products with any given product in the relevant country which we may refer as product – exchange, and we need to suggest such conditions. Of course one needs to increase its existence as well as its marketing methods implemented within the countries of the market and worldwide. We are at quite early stages in this sense.
When we review the major countries, we observe that a company may have 10 representatives or 8 personnel in a country at its target market and that the company has already been active there for 15 years and has been conducting lobbying. Penetrating that market with only 1-2 staff or with a 3–5 month preparation is not very easy against such an organization. We need to enhance our existence through long term planning, with patience and by building up our cooperation with parties. From time to time, discussions on whether to establish companies in order to market our defense industry products have come to the agenda. These discussions were made in the past and they may still be discussed. But we currently identified that most of our companies prefer conducting their marketing activities by themselves.
At this point, we may create a positive influence to the marketing activities by adopting measures, by increasing the existing activities of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries in a few foreign countries and by reinforcing the current staff. Even if our companies continue to conduct their own marketing activities by themselves, I believe that for remaining there as an institution of our state, it is crucial to represent and speak on behalf of our companies in the defense industry and offer them guarantees on behalf of our state. In many countries in the world, companies prefer to negotiate with the governments instead of conducting relations with other companies. When you negotiate with a governmental institution, they wish to see how far the related company is supported by the state. This structure bears greater importance as we are still going through the infancy stage. Maybe the state support, state guarantee is not quite essential for a company which proved its existence in a country, establishing powerful relations and selling its products but we believe that at this stage our support is required by many companies. We do not stipulate our existence to the companies as a sin qua non yet we still believe that our support should be perceived as a complementary component. We observed the advantageous outcomes of this in various platforms when regarded in this way.
Defence Turkey: With the Frigate Modernization Project won by Aselsan, Havelsan and STM in consortium in Romania, the Submarine Modernization Program won by STM in Pakistan similarly through leaving its major rivals behind, Aselsan’s sales of the Aselpod which is a critical technology exported to a foreign country and FNSS’ huge sales to two Middle East countries, we observe that Turkey is going on a major attack in 2016. How do you assess these achievements? Besides, will you bring new announcements to the public opinion with brand new export opportunities in the upcoming period?
These sales are the very first signs of the potential process, and as you work with patience and shape and release your products you see the outputs and sense that you are capable of achieving better results as well. There was an issue I underlined during my speeches in various platforms. Turkey has an export target of 25 billion $ for the ambitious vision for 2023. Achieving this goal may seem almost impossible, yet I believe that it is essential to maintain the bar at that level as the Defense Industry Export is an area which we expect to range exponentially. The sales would surely increase as the quality of the product, the company and the country is recognized and as their reputation and reliability enhances. Because, during the sales and marketing activities, many countries are questioning the utilization, performance and usage areas of the product. The fact that the product is being utilized by our own Armed Forces is surely a positive aspect. Then again, if your product is being utilized in a few more countries, a quite different image emerges in the purchasing countries. In this respect, when our companies conduct cost analysis, etc. within the scope of their marketing activities, they should not overlook this point, we especially advise them to pursue access into their target market even at the expense of loss making. The loss occurring at this point should be perceived as a resource allocated to the marketing activities. Because if you do not actualize this, if you do not open the door to the market then crossing the line to other doors would surely become more difficult. And all the doors you opened may geometrically avail the opening of other doors for you. I think that every fruitful outcome will result in bringing more good news.
We also need to stress this fact; winning such types of projects was not easy in the past and it is not easy today. As I mentioned previously, despite the aggressive attempts and pressures of the major foreign companies recognized well by the markets for many years, our companies are proceeding to receive orders from abroad. Even in several projects we assumed, we cannot declare our winning of the project or the tender before the signatures are put and the payment is made on the final day as our rivals continue their attempts to take away the offer from our companies until the very last moment. Therefore, this is not a comfortable zone, but we need to learn the rules. It is quite similar to make training in a challenging environment. Here is an example: this in a sense feels like exiting the local league and playing in the major league. We have to find out how to play in the major league. This has several components and our companies are gradually learning them. I would like to emphasize an issue at this point; I tried to mention it through the MILGEM Project a little while ago. If you cannot maintain a certain scale, you may remain small in terms of grandness in the world market. You may be capable of building a certain level of competition in your country, but as you expand overseas and as your background and size begins to be questioned, you need to lay an existence of a certain size on the table. We expect our companies to appreciate this concept. They need to have an extremely robust and solid appearance and structure, especially throughout their international activities. We believe that instead of an atmosphere in which the Turkish companies are each other’s rivals in foreign markets, establishment of a structure where they are gathered under a single roof would be more advantageous.
Defence Turkey: Dear Undersecretary, if we evaluate the Turkish defense companies’ expansion overseas through takeovers or joint investments in comparison with their performance in the past years, do you consider their performance in this area to be sufficient? How could the incentives and support be created to encourage our companies to invest in foreign countries making such investments more appealing? Do our governmental institutions have such studies at present?
This point needs to be carefully examined and conducted in respect of both perception and implementation in the field. Two main issues stand out here. The first one is the part related to the exports as we have mentioned previously. We emphasize the following point during our activities and attempts in exports, especially to the countries which we have thriving and fruitful cooperations, “When you purchase the product from another country, you may get the support services in a certain extent as well, then as you move onto a second product or wish to improve the existing product a bit, then you will have to purchase that product one more time.” However, we offer a comprehensive cooperation model approach. We claim that we do not turn our back to you after the sale or modernization of a product. If an upgraded version of a product is to be revealed and if you wish to manufacture certain components of the product in your country, we will remain on your side at that point. In other words, instead of an approach that closes the boxes and dictates, “Unless you buy the Black box, we do not open this and you will stop short”, we adopt the approach consisting of “We will provide support to you for achieving a capability in a certain extent”. This I guess is our greatest advantage at the table. Over the years, throughout the defense industry, the cooperation we built with the Western countries, we witnessed that the doors to cooperation and technology elements were merely opened to a slight extent. Since we already know that this approach is applied to other countries as well, we aim to move beyond this. We wish to emphasize that the value we release would contribute to the future projects in a sense rather than not only contributing to product and monetary aspects. As these issues come up on the agenda, we constantly emphasize to the parties our approach of establishing joint companies in the country and that the option for a joint production is available when required.
We have seen various examples of this in Aselsan’s enterprises and investments and we expect them to increase further. This is regarded as one of the methods making export more attractive. Another method is taking over foreign companies. This is one of the issues we support and which we believe would gain impetus to our country in certain areas, yet it needs to be implemented carefully. Our companies lack courage regarding this issue. I sense that regarding such issues, the traditional discourse is an over protective one as “Why shall we invest in a foreign company instead of investing in Turkey?”. What actually needs to be questioned is, in fact, the amount of value you obtain in response to the money you invest. Because, the acquisition of foreign companies recognized with their critical technologies or production components in the world with certain capabilities would provide important advantages to our country. We need to be aware of this fact; we even remain on the watch all the time with an aggressive approach and closely monitor the world market. For instance, before taking over the company in Hamburg, TAI attempted to take over another crucial company and slightly missed the chance. If TAI took over that company, it would greatly contribute to our country in terms of technology. Therefore, as such assessments and attempts remain, steps should be taken correctly, and the components such as the profile of the company, its technological level and value should be examined thoroughly. We are not quite experienced in this area. We need to get used to this environment step by step and boost our courage. We encourage the companies with which we are partners or which we cooperate. Without doubt, while doing this, we need to progress without avoiding certain principles, and with correct analysis in a consciously yet not quite skeptical manner. You cannot reach a point without taking any risks. Financial power and support demands of the companies would surely come up on the agenda. In that case, we can conduct the required analysis and provide the essential support to our companies as well.
Defence Turkey: You are closely acquainted with the sector including all problems and requirements. At the same time you are building various strategies through your institution for the expansion of the sector and also for gaining depth of field. Within such a context, which strategies do you have for the development of critical technologies? What are your strategies that could provide us competitiveness in international markets by enabling our production in niche areas through guiding our sector?
Currently, we listed certain items. These items have sub-technologies. There are specific areas in the world bearing advanced technology. Conventionally, the material is regarded as one of the most important components in the world allowing a country to step forward, the defense industry positioned in the first place. In ancient times, if the end of your arrow was fine, the steel of your sword was finely sharpened, then you became more powerful. Therefore, a country has to improve its capacities in materials. Starting from that point, initially and naturally the material technologies come to mind. This could be observed ranging from composite materials, to a series of components used in various heat treatments, armors and ceramics, and this has to continue in many other areas as well. The material technologies are becoming significantly vital nowadays as well as in the future. We cannot drop behind in this field. In addition to this, there are conventional technologies such as tank engines, gas turbine engines; they are now being referred as conventional technologies. We endeavor to keep up with these technologies and our efforts to this end will continue. We cannot afford to continue our foreign dependency in respect of the engine and power pack systems that are the most basic components of our products. This also relates to all product ranges, which comprises helicopters, aircrafts, vessels, MBT etc. We are aware of our deficiency in electronic systems, semi conductive technologies. We need to make a rapid progress in radar technologies as well. If you took a note of them, all these areas we mentioned are based on materials. For instance, in laser technologies, reconnaissance – surveillance systems are quite actively used in counter terrorism. A country needs to own a series of technologies to detect and analyze a potential threat even during its preparation phase with the assistance of this technology so that you could destroy it immediately when it emerges. This also contains a line of systems composed of image processing –data analysis –evaluation software and command control. Another title is the rocket technologies; here we come across a chain with an open end extending from various layers of Air Defense Systems to Space Technologies. We have this topic on our agenda. There are several fuel and control systems within this scope and radar technologies are included in this business. Certain components containing electromagnetic war are newly arriving to the agenda whereas the unmanned robotic systems independently become a current issue. These technologies have their naval, air, land or hybrid versions. There are also ancillary equipment and semi-robotic systems to reinforce the armies at the operation field. These stand out as the new battle systems in the world. We cannot ignore any of them but we have to make a prioritization in technology acquisition. It is not just our country; all countries in the world have limited resources for defense, therefore while making prioritization all the factors that may turn into threats in the future should be well examined. Of course we wish to own all technologies and we aim to cover all our deficiencies yet we still need to analyze our priorities and competencies in detail. We may as well assess the breakdown of these main technology topics that I mentioned before. We have to strive to reach all the technological capabilities and mastery we may utilize in the world. Each and every source of knowledge, technology and application that we fail to acquire or that we miss will be our loss. Therefore, we have to be proactive and on the alert and be informed of all the developments in the world.
Defence Turkey: Could we consider that the technological, national, indigenous products released as a result of R&D studies of our SMEs and Major Industrial companies with universities and our institutes are fulfilling the requirements of the sector and users and covering their expectations sufficiently? Could we speak of the existence of a healthy eco-system? What are your evaluations about the big picture?
Taking a look at the big picture, my initial observations were not quite good. Today, I believe that we did not fully adopt the required measures since then. The data indicates that we are not doing quite well. The outcomes do not change unless the methods are altered. No matter how we express our sympathy as the Undersecretariat to the small industries, SME’s, R&D structuring, the way to these organizations may be paved merely through the implementations in the field. Conventionally, we apply the allocation of certain sources by contracts to these as a method. We stipulate this as a condition to the main contractor and we monitor it to a certain extent. But I sense this monitoring is not that sufficient. We could figure this through the complaints we collect. There has to be specific limits on leaving this issue to main contractor’s initiative and control. We, as the Undersecretariat, need to remain more on the table as a catalyzer factor in order to allow more observations, have more companies on the table, more efficient elaboration and informing activities. In other words the companies should be aware of each other and the idleness will be eliminated. We need to establish an inventory for the industry and spread it well and have the ones with sufficient capabilities on the table. We have to put forth our measures for increasing the existing capabilities; we have to negotiate all these issues. At this point, if you merely suggest an SME or R&D company to pave its own way, recommend them to negotiate with a main contractor or advise a main contractor build a policy and discuss it with the sub-contractor, then just a limited amount of distance could be covered. The drastic or incentive measures should be increased and put forth clearly here. Currently we are not in bad shape, we arrived to a certain point, yet we have to move beyond this level. We observe that we will fail to go beyond this threshold by applying the same methods we have adopted so far. Speaking of R&D structuring, the R&D structuring of the major companies are capable of proceeding only to a certain point. Taking a look at the examples in the world, instead of great structures we come across small yet entrepreneurial, open minded, dynamic, swift structures that are open to changes as well. If you fail to feed these structures sufficiently, you may not create new ideas or products. We have been conducting a line of activities as the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries to this end. We wish to establish a company yet not be the major partner, have a minor share but eliminate the future anxieties of the companies with our existence and support such structures. We aim to build a structure that takes account of the studies and initiatives of the companies regarding the area of R&D. Should we mention the eco-system issue, we need to examine a structure here where all Turkey’s resources are on the table. There is a feeling of being stuck in a vicious cycle here. There are clusters and entrepreneurs in various cities and regions in Turkey. There is an acceleration stimulated by many academicians, academic associations, various small R&D structures and R&D stimulus packages. If we fail to reflect all these activities to the field and to the products as a whole, then we would also fail to make an efficient use of them and could not gain the intended results. We have to open those doors at this very point. We have to reveal the methods and opportunities in a clear fashion. We need to remain on the table as the Undersecretariat and be involved in these activities. We have to enable the release of new technologies by identifying the technology items and creating projects allowing opportunities for multiple associations and companies through a competitive model. Otherwise this vicious inner cycle would exist forever and our companies will continue their progress in not quite an aggressive manner. This speed is not enough for Turkey; the resources of the country require and deserve a much higher speed.
Defence Turkey: Lastly, is there any message you would like to convey to the readers of Defence Turkey magazine?
We have mentioned the technology. Technology is very important without doubt and I think that the studies and activities conducted in this area are also quite essential. Then at the end of the day, the public opinion and our armed forces battling in the fields are asking themselves the following questions, “Which product do I have in the field?” Therefore, while carrying out the development studies, we should not forget the motto “Perfect is the enemy of the good”. We are responsible for providing the best products possible immediately to our forces struggling in the theatre. In this respect, the deficiencies emerging throughout the maturation phase of the products released to the fields should be eliminated. We should avoid the self-derogatory attitude. Even the products of the countries which have already proved themselves in the world may be insufficient in the field or have certain deficiencies. At this juncture, instead of putting the deficiency of the product forward and building a negative perception, it is important to approve that it is natural and understand that we cannot mature a product without using it in the field and observing its deficiencies or getting any feedback. I do not mention this as there is such perception, but being patient is very crucial. Our Armed Forces to whom we have liabilities will have the following expectation from us, “The products you supply us should be the ones rendering us superior in the operation fields at all times. They should never let us down on our way, equip us with such superiority”. If we are able to achieve this, then our mission is completed. And to the extent we fail to fulfill their expectations, we have to question ourselves and figure out the mistakes we made. Therefore, we as the conductor of the projects and our companies will always have to question and analyze the performance of our products in the field.
Defence Turkey: Dear Undersecretary, thank you very much for your time.
February 26 2017
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