As far as I recall, Turkey was mostly dependent on the USA and Israel for its defense needs until recently. Turkey sought Israeli assistance to modernize its large fleet of F-4 Phantoms and bought Popeye missiles and IAI Herons. Turkish F-16s and other defense equipment used hundreds of Israeli components.

The situation started to rapidly change when Erdogan came to power back in 2010s. After the Ahmed Oguz Celikkol incident, Turkey virtually snapped its defense relationship with Israel and started to go ahead with its own defense industry. Then gradually we saw the production of the Anka UAV, MITUP Altay, T129 ATAK, MILGEM project, and so on.

Within a few years, dozens of Turkish companies are in the international defense market, names that we never saw in newspapers before. Turkish firms are stealing the show in international defense exhibitions. Turkish firms are competing for an Indonesian submarine contract and a Polish attack helicopter contract, developing jet fighters, selling avionics, and so on.

So, my questions are,

  • How did Turkey manage to springboard its defense industry so fast?
  • If Turkey was able to do so, what have other NATO countries (like Poland, the Czech Republic, and so on) been doing?
  • Finally, how is the defense industry able to maintain its growth even though Erdogan conducted a massive purge in the country?
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    Springboard for someone else to answer, Erdogans 2016 constitution rewrite gave him far more oversight over the defense industry, and as compared to 2015 numbers military spending has shot up about 30% (probably more since this data was released) tradingeconomics.com/turkey/military-expenditure – Gramatik Jun 21 '18 at 17:24

I think a lot of it might be down to perception. It didn't happen overnight and Turkey is not the only country doing it. Ukraine has a large defense industry, Korea has been growing its own, Brazil is expanding and even Israel can in fact be compared to these countries as a (relatively) new entrant trying to substitute imports and make inroads with low-cost alternatives to US or Western European products.

One way Turkey has been able to expand its domestic industry is by including local production and technology transfers in deals with exporters from more established countries. They are not the only country trying that, it's par for the course nowadays, but I would guess that they are large enough and close enough to the West (until now at least) to have had more success with this than some others (e.g. in the Middle East). Negotiation around this are always a big part of any arms deal.

Some of the examples you cite are cases in point: UAVs are new(ish) but the combat helicopter and littoral ship programmed did not appear out of nowhere in the 2010s. They were negotiated in the late 1990s, early 2000s and rely on foreign technology and know-how. The attack helicopter is based on an AgustaWestland design. The Ada-class ships were designed locally but follow a string of technology transfer programmes with ships bought abroad but produced or modernised in Turkey with the assistance of the original maker of the ship.

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