Interview: Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN, Managing Director at Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş.:

6 Eylül 2018
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The interview conducted with Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN, Managing Director at Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. published in the 58th issue of MSI Turkish Defence Review is below:

 

“We integrate our products with new technologies and develop variants in our areas of expertise”

Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. is focusing its efforts in the field of underwater acoustics, in which theoretical and practical know-how make big impact and brings innovative and competitive solutions. As the characteristics of water differ by geography and show seasonal fluctuations, studies in the field of underwater acoustics require a long-term systematic and planned approach. Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş., which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, conducts its projects in this vision based on patience and gradual progress. We talked with Dr. Hakan Başaran, Managing Director at Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş., about the company’s activities, particularly in the field of underwater acoustics.

MSI TDR: Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. celebrated the 10th anniversary of its establishment last year. How do you see the position of the company in the sector today? Where is Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. located on the pyramid of the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSB)?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. has achieved its current position by concentrating its efforts in a well-defined field. Our initial plan was to operate in the fields of underwater acoustics, command, control and simulation, but we saw that the fields of command, control and simulation were more crowded, with many products in development phase, and so decided to focus our efforts on the underwater acoustics field.

 

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Smart buoys developed by Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. for detection and monitoring tasks have the potential to be used in many different applications.

Smart buoys developed by Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. for detection and monitoring tasks have the potential to be used in many different applications.

 

All of our solutions are based on our indigenous R&D studies. TÜBİTAK (the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) has provided us with great support both in the establishment of necessary infrastructures and in the execution of particular projects, allowing us to grow in a balanced and planned manner.

Accordingly, over the last decade we have developed various indigenous solutions for the national market that are either in use as independent systems or as part of larger systems used on naval platforms and in underwater warfare. We have established a good business relationship with the Ministry of National Defense, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) SSB and the main integrators, and based on its brand name and developed solutions, Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. has become a recognized and well-known name in the sector. Throughout this process, we have always developed our human resources.

We believe a company’s position in the sector should be an indicator of its sustainability. Although the defence and aerospace sector is a special working area that attracts industrialists operating in other sectors as well, it has certain sector-specific features. We believe that priority should always be to establish a sustainable structure, and I’m not talking only about financial sustainability. For example, forming a team of two or three skilled people does not guarantee sustainability,  a corporate structure is required and team members are to be trained as needed. Without these, the structure may immediately collapse when something unexpected happens to any of the team members.

We have been striving to become part of a sustainable ecosystem, and to achieve this, we must act in compliance with corporate standards and hold ISO certificates, as well as a CMMI certificate. If you want to become a part of the ecosystem, then you shouldn’t do everything yourself, but rather work together with the rest of the ecosystem. For example, we have been outsourcing certain work packages to companies based in the OSTİM Organised Industrial Zone, and we have also been supporting the training of two university professors in the production and industrialization of transducers.

A sustainable ecosystem should be moderated by the government and in our sector, this role is conducted mainly by the SSB.

Regarding the pyramid you mentioned in your question, I can say that Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. undertakes all forms of responsibility as a supplier by carrying out product-oriented R&D studies and developing products for the main integrators, main platform manufacturers and prime contractors, also with the support of TÜBİTAK. For us, being a part of a sustainable ecosystem is more important than our position in the pyramid.

Echorium Diver Detection Sonar

Echorium Diver Detection Sonar

MSI TDR: Could you share with us some figures about the current status of Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş., such as turnover, number of employees and projects, and export volume?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. operates under the Koç Group of Companies. As an affiliate of KoçSistem, which operates under the same umbrella, we are receiving support from a team of 15–20 people in certain issues, including human resources, corporate communication, administrative issues and legal affairs.

Under this hybrid structure, Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. employs a team of 50, consisting of engineers and technicians, most of whom are working in fields related to electronics, computer and mechanical engineering, as well as physics, materials and industrial engineering. All team members have extensive knowledge and experience in their respective areas of expertise. In terms of the level of education, more than half of our personnel holds PhD and master’s degree in their respective fields.

We currently have 15 ongoing projects, half of which are related to national and indigenous products that will be integrated onto ships, and the other half of which are independent naval weapon and defence systems or naval acoustic test field systems.

When we look at the sector in general, we see that most of the products offered by companies, including our company, are systems whose R&D phase has just been completed and that are in the final phase of the Product Development process. I believe that once these products enter the serial production phase, both our turnover and that of the sector as a whole will go up. We expect our annual turnover, which is now around ₺25–30 million, to show a three- or four-fold increase within this process.

When it comes to exports, I foresee a great increase over the next four or five years, in line with the commencement of serial production of our systems.

BAMS system of Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. is ready for delivery for integration onto the third vessel in the New Type Submarine Project.

BAMS system of Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. is ready for delivery for integration onto the third vessel in the New Type Submarine Project.

 

MSI TDR: What difference does being part of the Koç Group of Companies make?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: The Koç Group is the largest group in Turkey, and we are proud to be working for such a prestigious organisation. Koç is a very valuable brand and acting in compliance with such a high brand value is a heavy responsibility. Our ambition is to fulfil our responsibilities in this regard, and this motivates us to work hard and produce more.

The main control unit and transducers (LF and HF) of the Sonar Beacon system being provided by Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. for the New Type Submarine Project.

The main control unit and transducers (LF and HF) of the Sonar Beacon system being provided by Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. for the New Type Submarine Project.

 

Integral of Technology and Derivatives of Products

MSI TDR: How would you list the core competencies of Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş.? In what ways is the company superior to its competitors, and which of its characteristics distinguish it from the competition?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: Our most important asset is our skilled human resources. Our team has both theoretical knowledge and practical experience in underwater systems, acoustic signal processing, underwater environment modelling, and acoustic detection, identification and classification. We develop innovative and competitive solutions in the fields of electronic system design, embedded software applications, signal processing, data fusion and mechanical product design, as well as modelling and simulation. We achieve high rates of indigenisation, reaching 70 percent, especially in the electro-acoustic systems we produce for naval ships, submarines and maritime vessels. I believe our brand is well-recognised in the market as a result of this high rate of local participation, combined with our experience in ship integration. We take pride in having been selected to provide the Sonar Beacon and BAMS (Breathing Air Monitoring System) for the New Type Submarine Project, and to provide Acoustic Environment Models and Acoustic Tracking and Monitoring Systems for the various combat and auxiliary ships of the Turkish Naval Forces.

We are able to develop derivative systems by combining our solutions in various ways, which stands out as one of our core competencies. We integrate our products with new technologies and develop variants in our areas of expertise, and we see this approach as the balancing point of the technology-market-production triangle. We believe that our capabilities in tracking and monitoring through multiple smart acoustic systems, which we use especially in the qualification of acoustic systems by means of field tests, grants us special status in the fields of modular Wide Area Networks and data fusion.

Finally, our experience in carrying out measurements and collecting data in the field is another core competency, and we have significant experience in these fields. We design our systems with full awareness of what they will face when they get into the sea.

 

MSI TDR: Could you elaborate on your measurement and data collection area of activity?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: As is the case in other areas, it is highly important for underwater warfare, or more broadly speaking, for submarine warfare, antisubmarine warfare and mine warfare, to have access to indigenous solutions that are developed in a cost-efficient manner and with high performance, and to satisfy client requirements by following technological trends. Throughout this process, it is vital to carry out conceptual analyses of the software and hardware cycles when proceeding from the requirement analysis to the design phase. More importantly, being able to carry out a number of field tests with an indigenous infrastructure and to make measurements for use in the qualification phase, is a critical capability.

The most significant difference between underwater systems and products embodying other kinds of technologies is the complicated status of the work site, in other words the sea. The only means of overcoming this complicated situation is to collect vast amount of measurement data, and to have an indigenous infrastructure that is able to collect them.

That is why producing underwater acoustic systems nationally and indigenously not only requires competence in terms of theoretical knowledge, but also the ability to conduct marine tests during the qualification process in an efficient and competent manner. To this end, the marine environment should be modelled very well and an appropriate infrastructure should be established to allow long-term field measurements, and this process requires extensive experience. In this sense, Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. makes a difference by going beyond the understanding maritime environment. We also carry out dedicated modelling and field tests.

We proceed from the requirements phase to needs assessment, and then to the design phase, by increasing the compliance of the designs to the real environment through measurements made following the conceptual design phase. Before we finalise our products, we put them through rigorous testing. These tests are conducted before and after the critical design phase, and under various sea conditions, at different times of the year and in different locations.

This vast experience allows us to use big data and analytics-based smart and embedded components on some of our products, and to equip certain products with GPS, RF and acoustic detection as well as positioning and monitoring, capabilities, and some of our products embody all of the detection, identification and monitoring functions.

Our works have been attracting the attention of world’s leading marine companies. For example, after working with us for a while, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), the prime contractor in the New Type Submarine Project, asked us to meet their infrastructure-related needs and included us on their list of qualified subcontractors in this regard.

 

MSI TDR: Can you tell us about any significant developments in your projects over the last year?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: The biggest challenge in the production of underwater systems is the carrying out of qualification tests with indigenous resources and capabilities, and this year we have experienced a very good example of such a testing phase. In the indigenous torpedo production project, in which ROKETSAN is the prime contractor, we recently reached the testing stage of the indigenous design in a marine environment. This is a complicated process that requires intensive effort and experience, and may involve hundreds of trials. This is a high-adrenalin activity and exciting part of the programme that requires working with team spirit. During this phase, we enjoy every single step that takes us to success. For me, this has been the most significant development over the last year.

Another important development in this period was seen in the MALAMAN project, which foresees the development of a bottom mine, with work beginning on the production of indigenous smart mines under the leadership of Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. in cooperation with TÜBİTAK SAGE (Defense Industries Research and Development Institute) and the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Company (MKEK).

Our acoustic buoys, equipped with smart embedded systems, are being used in the testing phases of these projects. These products have been differentiated as scoring systems in line with client requirements, and have been designed for the 5/54” (127 mm) gun, becoming another source of enthusiasm and pride for us.

Among the other developments in our company, in the New Type Submarine Project, the Sonar Beacon and BAMS systems are now ready to be delivered for the third vessel, and we will also provide an indigenous Acoustic Tracking and Monitoring (Sonar Beacon Detection) System for the Emergency Response Boat to be built by Desan Shipyard for the Turkish Naval Forces. We are delighted to be producing both the Sonar Beacon System and the system that detects it.

In the field of diver detection sonar, we offer a highly competent solution with our Echorium. Although this solution has yet to be applied to the military field, TÜPRAŞ has declared an interest, and we have already completed the installation of two of systems that are now providing underwater protection to TÜPRAŞ facilities. We will install the third system before the end of the year, and all systems will start to operate in integration with each other, and consequently TÜPRAŞ will become the owner of one of the world’s most effective diver detection systems.

We are proud to be contributing to the two significant objectives set in the SSB’s Strategic plan for 2017–2021 (STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE 1.1.9. Developing and implementing technology-based integrated solutions for the protection of critical facilities; STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE 2.2.1. Establishing a testing and evaluation organisation to serve the defence sector).

Pressure tank and acoustic test pool of Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş.

Pressure tank and acoustic test pool of Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş.

 

MSI TDR: During IDEF 2017, you signed a five-year General Framework Cooperation Protocol with TÜBİTAK BİLGEM (Informatics and Information Security Research Center) that envisaged joint activities in such areas as underwater phones, message operating systems, underwater combat management systems, modelling and simulation. Could you tell us about the latest status of your work in the context of this protocol?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: We have been engaged in very fruitful brainstorming activities, and have taken our first steps in this regard by signing a licence agreement for the sale of underwater phones. As part of our system development efforts, we have been working on the modernisation of some components that are no longer produced. We also produce transducers for the system and carry out the sales activities of the integrated product.

 

MSI TDR: We know that the employees of Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. are also active in academic studies and are publishing academic papers. Can you share with us some information in this regard? How do such academic works contribute to Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. and to the sector in general?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: To begin with figures, we have been granted four national patents and registered three brand families, and published six international and 19 national papers.

Since obtaining a patent involves explaining the details of what you do and how you do it, it is not preferred in the defence sector. On the other hand, branding is very important, and we are heavily focused on this. When proceeding from R&D to product development, we apply for trademark registration, and once the productisation phase is completed, we receive our trademark.

 

MSI TDR: How about ongoing studies related to the lifecycle support of your products?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: Recently, the SSB has been pioneering integrated logistic support projects, and companies must focus also in this direction on the way to serial production. We are also working towards this goal, and are establishing a team to provide support in the field.

The Future is Open for New Opportunities

MSI TDR: In your vision and mission statements, you state that you operate in the fields of “electronic systems for naval platforms in general, and specifically acoustic systems”. Do you have any plans to expand and diversify your fields of activity in the future?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: There will be no changes to our fields of activity in the short term, although we may add to our areas of operation after 2020. The extent of this expansion will depend on the market, our stakeholders in the market and the status of market segments in which we have an interest in Turkey. Our priority is to start serial production, to keep our productisation efforts on track and to maintain the sustainability of our ecosystem. We would then like to become an exporter company that can become a partner in international projects. Our first target market for exports and cooperation is the European Union, as we will always compete with them in any region in the world.

As our ongoing projects enter the serial production phase, we will need to keep our team busy with new projects, and we may undertake civil projects in the fields of signal processing and acoustics to this end. We can work with TURMEPA on a smart buoy for the measuring of marine pollution; we can integrate commercial sensors into our buoy designs, as well as signal processing capabilities and distributed system management experience, and develop a system that will monitor pollution on a continuous basis. We can follow the propeller traces of ships and conduct continuous monitoring of the number of ships entering and leaving ports and marinas, and can also offer our diver detection sonar for the protection of marinas. These are some of the projects on our agenda.

We may also carry our know-how in the field of acoustics to the ground and devise noise maps for municipalities.

 

MSI TDR: The sector has recently been focused on the concept of productisation. What kind of work does Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. carry out in this regard? What products will be the focus of your works in the future?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: The word “Information” in our trade name refers to data. In the projects we undertake, we develop databases as well as products, and make measurements on a continuous basis and collect the results in databases. These databases will allow different analyses to be carried out in the future, which may lead to new opportunities in a new area of business. Such data and analysis results are very valuable, especially for works related to underwater acoustics.

Defence applications will no longer be designed with a single sensor, as such applications demand field coverage, and we have already started to develop smart modules for such applications. The modules will communicate with each other and transfer data to create a network, and the next step in our productisation efforts may focus on this area. Networks that cover certain areas or modules of these networks can be marketed, and can be also applied to the civil field.

 

MSI TDR: Is there anything you would like to add?

Dr. Hakan BAŞARAN: Turkey has been working in the field of underwater acoustics with particular focus on digital technologies for some 25 years, and has already achieved serial production in this field, which requires time and experience. Now, we need to turn our attention to the foreign markets. Our government has supported our sector continuously, and Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş. will also do its part in contributing to all these processes.

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On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Dr. Hakan Başaran, Managing Director at Koç Bilgi ve Savunma Teknolojileri A.Ş., for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.

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