ANKARA (Hurriyet)–As Turkey revamps its national security document to reduce the number of countries listed as threats, defense procurement has not slowed in Ankara, which is expected to spend even more on arms in the coming decade.
“You don’t buy weapons to use them in wars, you buy them for deterrence. As your deterrence increases, and you need to be really strong for that, your potential enemies refrain from attacking you,” one senior procurement official said Wednesday, explaining the logic behind the continued large-scale arms-purchasing programs.
Turkey currently spends more than $4 billion a year on defense procurement, a figure that is expected to rise by at least $1 billion not long after 2015 due to the new large-scale buys.
Under the draft of Turkey’s latest national security document, expected to be finalized in the fall, Ankara no longer views Greece, Iran, Iraq or Russia as threats, a change that reflects the Turkish government’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy. The draft, however, does not contain any recommendations to reduce arms spending, despite considerable public discussion on such a move, which some defense analysts suggest would be a natural outcome of this kind of major change in national security strategy.
Instead, Turkey’s “procurement spending will peak shortly after 2015, and is expected to remain at that level for several years,” the senior procurement official said. “We and the government are talking about measures to meet that increased level of spending, and we will find ways to do that.”
By 2015, three of Turkey’s top multibillion-dollar weapons programs – including the $13 billion purchase of around 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II fighter jets – will particularly gain speed. Deliveries of the jets are expected to start shortly after 2015.
Delivery of 50 A129 attack helicopters to the Turkish Army by the Italian-British partnership of AgustaWestland should meanwhile begin by 2014 as part of a nearly $3 billion deal. And in 2015, a partnership led by Turkey’s Otokar is expected to complete the design, development and manufacture of four prototypes of the Altay, the country’s first domestically produced battle tank. The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, or SSM, will likely award a contract for mass production of at least 250 tanks, a deal worth billions of dollars.
In addition, Turkey has started co-production with Germany of four modern diesel submarines, and is expected to select later this year either a U.S. company or a European group for joint manufacture of hundreds of utility helicopters for all major branches of its military. The multibillion-dollar programs are expected to begin deliveries around 2015.
“All these large-scale programs will require increased procurement spending roughly around the same time, and we are preparing for that,” the procurement official said. It is the first time in the country’s history that Ankara will need to make large payments for several multibillion-dollar programs at the same time.
“We hope that a large-scale, punishing global economic crisis doesn’t hit the world and us in upcoming years,” the official said.
According to excerpts leaked to the press, the draft of the new national security document, which is likely to be ratified in October and become official later in the fall, states that Turkey now sees all its neighbors as potential partners for cooperation in all fields.