In 1974-75, Turkey found itself in a very difficult position. The US Congress imposed an arms embargo on Ankara in reaction to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus. But Ankara did not stay idle in this crucial sector for too long. It made the decision to establish its own sector from scratch. The country invested money in developing a defense industry, it worked with Israeli firms to gain the necessary know-how, and set ambitious goals.
The shock of the American embargo mobilized Turkey’s deep state. Ankara decided that it would never again be held ransom to the US or any other foreign power.
What we see and read today goes back to that time 45 ago. It takes time, systematic work, discipline and patience to make such an achievement. Today Turkey has shipbuilding capabilities. It has made alarming progress in drone technology, which was made evident in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Overall, it could be said that Turkey – notwithstanding several exceptions, such as the area of military jets – achieved its goal of strategic independence.
In those 45 years, we made sure to dismantle the productive base of any defense industry we had. A corrupt political system appointed incompetent party cronies in charge of the state-controlled industries.
The shipyards operated now and then, but the actions of unionists only compounded the situation.
We spent huge amounts of money on ammunition, a great chunk of which went to kickbacks, consultants’ salaries, lobbyists and so on. The funds certainly did not go into technology, production or research – with very few exceptions and a couple of private companies that export such products.
We reached a point where our precious cargo planes were grounded at Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) for years and we had to send them to third countries for any upgrades.
We are fortunate that the current conservative administration and the military leadership understand the problem and how urgent it is. Will they be able to solve it? EAB, the shipyards and so on are too big a mess to untangle. There are not many politicians out there that are genuinely interested in the issue and willing to take risks.
We cannot afford to wait another 45 years to see results. We must immediately make up for the lost time.