August 9, 2011: During the first half of this year, Turkey finally achieved its goal of obtaining half of its weapons from Turkish firms. Eight years ago, only 25 percent of weapons purchases were from Turkish companies. Thus the last decade has been a period of vast growth in the Turkish defense industries. Arms exports are also way up, and will exceed a billion dollars’ worth this year. This is more than four times what it was a decade ago.
Turkey has long sought to become self-reliant when it comes to weapons needs. This year, for the first time, half of their military equipment and technology will come from Turkish firms. This rapid progress has come partly from co-production deals for tanks (with South Korea and others) and for smaller items with several other countries. Then there was the government decision to pay more for Turkish made stuff than for imported gear. It's more expensive to develop new designs, than to just buy something similar from a foreign nation that has been producing it for years.
One casualty of all this was the Turkish military relationship with Israel. The push for less dependence on foreign suppliers put the hurt mostly on Israel. Then there are the Islamic politicians running Turkey for the last decade. For political reasons, they want to be more hostile to Israel (to gain more popularity in the Moslem world). This brought to a halt all the success Israeli arms manufacturers have had in Turkey. Until quite recently, over a billion dollars’ worth of Israeli military equipment was imported by Turkey each year. Despite the fact that Turkey is a Moslem country, and the current ruling party considers itself "Islamic" (in the Turkish, not the Arab, sense), Israel continues to get some contracts with the Turkish military. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, Jews have been residents of what is now Turkey for over 2,500 years. They were, in effect, there before the Turks showed up, although always as a minority. For that reason, the Turks never considered them a threat. And when the Spanish expelled all Jews five hundred years ago, the Turkish Sultan invited them to his lands. When the Nazis began persecuting Jews in the 1930s, Turkey again offered sanctuary. Many Turkish Jews went to Israel in the 1940s and 50s, but 25,000 remain. The Turkish Jews in Israel provide a pool of businessmen and agents who speak Turkish, understand Turkish customs, and often still have kin in Turkey. This made it easier to do business in Turkey (which buys lots of non-military goods from Israel, and sells a lot south as well).
Then there's the fact that, despite being Moslem, the Turks look back on their centuries of ruling the Middle East as one long headache. Israelis and Turks can trade stories about how difficult it is to deal with the Arabs. This is not something that is admitted publicly, but it is often discussed over coffee. Finally, the Turks get good equipment, and excellent service, from the Israelis. The Turks are not just another customer, but a valued ally in a very rough neighborhood. The Turks also like the idea of having someone down south they can depend on, especially with Turkey's eastern neighbor, Iran, working to acquire nuclear weapons. Finally, buying Israeli weapons also provides the opportunity to buy Israeli technology as well. But all this is being tossed aside to increase Turkey's stature in the Islamic world, and the sales of Turkish weapons manufacturers.