Interview: Prof. Dr. İsmail Demir, Undersecretary for Defence Industries
We have conducted an interview with Prof. Dr. İsmail Demir, Undersecretary for Defence Industries, in the 31st issue of MSI Turkish Defence Review. You can read the full content of the interview below.
“As two brotherly nations, Turkey and Pakistan will continue to cooperate in the field of defence and aerospace, just as they have until now.”
Turkey and Pakistan, which have very close relations in every area, have started to expand the scope of cooperation in the field of defence and aerospace with indigenous products and joint development projects. We talked about the industrial aspect of these developments with Prof. Dr. İsmail Demir, the Undersecretary for Defence Industries.
MSI Turkish Defence Review (TDR): Mr. Undersecretary, first of all, would you please share with us your message to the participants of IDEAS (The International Defence Exhibition and Seminar)?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: IDEAS is an exhibition to which the Turkish defence and aerospace industry regularly participates under the leadership of the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM). The exhibition sees significant participation by official representatives, companies and defence professionals from various countries. In this context, IDEAS is a valuable platform that provides us the opportunity to consult with Pakistan and other participating countries about cooperation in the defence and aerospace industry.
I recommend participants in IDEAS to make the most of the exhibition, and to be in close cooperation with SSM representatives during the event. Our priority target will be to build on the potential cooperation opportunities with other countries – and in particular with Pakistan – during the exhibition, and to return from the exhibition with concrete results.
MSI TDR: How would you comment on Turkey’s participation to IDEAS?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: Owing to our existing relations with Pakistan, a brotherly nation, we attach great importance to IDEAS. As always, Turkey will have a strong representation at IDEAS 2016. We are participating to the exhibition with 20 companies and institutions at a ‘National Level’, under the lead of the SSM. We have secured a total area of 1,100 square metres for [exhibitions of] our defence and aerospace companies. We have arranged the highest possible level of official participation from public authorities. In this sense, we will ensure a broad participation to the exhibition both from the government’s side and the industry’s side.
MSI TDR: As an undersecretary, you had the opportunity to get acquainted with Pakistan’s defence and aerospace industry during your visits and bilateral meetings. Can you share with us your assessments on Pakistan’s defence and aerospace industry?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: Pakistan’s defence and aerospace industry is largely based around the public institutions. Heavy Industries Taxila, which operates in the field of land vehicles; Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, which operates in the field of air platforms; and Pakistan Ordnance Factories, which operate in the field of ammunition, are only some of the enterprises of Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence that operate under state control. [In Pakistan,] the private sector has not yet reached the desired level of involvement in the field of defence. In December 2015, I was invited to a seminar that was held in Pakistan. During this seminar, I made a presentation on the ‘Turkish Public-Private Partnership Model for the Defence Industry’, and observed that the Government of Pakistan is making a significant attempt to increase the involvement of the private sector in the defence and aerospace industry, placing great importance on the partnership between the public and private sectors.
MSI TDR: Likewise, could you also share with us your thoughts on the procurement authorities and mechanisms in Pakistan? What kind of a cooperation and information flow is there between SSM and Pakistan’s procurement authorities?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production, which was established in 1991, is the counterpart of our Undersecretariat. We often come together with officials from this Ministry – which is responsible for production and cooperation in defence and aerospace – on various occasions such as the IDEAS and IDEF (International Defence Industry Exhibition), as well as in periodic cooperation meetings, to evaluate cooperation issues on the agenda and to ensure a flow of information.
To keep the channels of communication constantly open, our Undersecretariat’s Department of International Cooperation has established a working group with Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production and the Office of Pakistan’s Military Attaché. The said working group gathers on a regular basis to evaluate the current and potential areas of cooperation between the two countries.
Cooperation in Land, Sea and Air
MSI TDR: Could you give us a brief assessment on the history of the cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan in defence and aerospace, and tell us about your expectations for the future of this cooperation?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: There are numerous cooperation projects between Turkey and Pakistan that have been successfully completed. Coast guard boats, Fleet Replenishment Tanker, F-16 modernisation, tactical radios, the STAMP and STOP remote controlled weapon systems, various software and simulators, handguns and ammunition are examples of the areas where we have successfully cooperated with Pakistan until now. In addition to these past cooperations, the tender for the modernisation of Agosta 90B class submarines in the inventories of Pakistan Navy was recently won by STM, thanks largely to the extensive efforts of our Undersecretariat. The ASELPOD targeting pod developed by ASELSAN for use in fighter jets has also been exported as a result of similar efforts. The most important indicator of the mutual cooperation between the two countries is that Pakistan’s Super Mushshak aircraft was selected within the context of the Primary Trainer Aircraft project that aims to meet the requirement of the Air Force Command. In this project, the decision was taken that both the production and development phases of the aircraft will be carried out together with TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc.).
In the near future, we also hope to see the MİLGEM corvette in the inventory of the Pakistan Navy, and the ATAK helicopter in the inventory of Pakistan Army. In addition to air and naval systems, we have also been working on cooperative projects in the field of land vehicles. The brotherly nation of Pakistan is planning to modernise its Al-Khalid tanks, and we have notified our counterparts that we can provide all kinds of support in this area and that our companies, which have gained experience with the ALTAY Project, can easily take part in this modernisation project.
MSI TDR: We see that Turkey and Pakistan both have turn-key and indigenous solutions for certain platforms and systems that the other party requires. What are the platforms and systems on which the two countries can cooperate on in the short term? Could you tell us about the ongoing meetings on this subject?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: We have been exchanging information with Pakistan in nearly every field through our common working group as well as on various occasions. We are continuing to work on enhancing our existing cooperations through projects activities focusing on joint production and joint venture.
MSI TDR: One of the developments in this area was the testing the of T129 ATAK helicopter in Pakistan in May. Could you tell us your thoughts about this subject?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: Like many other countries, Pakistan is also interested in the T129 ATAK helicopter. As you mentioned, one ATAK helicopter was brought to Pakistan for summer tests. Within the context of this intercontinental [activity], which is the first of its kind in the world and in Turkey, tests conducted in three different regions were completed successfully. According to the current schedule, it is planned that the Long Range Anti-Tank Missile System (UMTAS) will be test-fired from the helicopter, at a testing ground where Pakistani officials will be present as observers. The cooperation process regarding the ATAK helicopter is continuing as planned. We hope this process will be completed positively.
MSI TDR: How is the progress with the MİLGEM project? Could you inform us about Pakistan’s interest in MİLGEM?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: We proposed the MİLGEM platform to meet Pakistan’s need for a corvette class ship. As you know, we have already engaged in successful collaborations with Pakistan in the field of naval projects, such as the Fleet Replenishment Tanker and the submarine modernisation. The export of MİLGEM corvette is another important naval project in which the two countries might cooperate. The relevant authorities in both countries have been in close contact on this subject.
There is also a plan to do something within the context of the MİLGEM project which hasn’t been done before, which is to extend a loan to Pakistan from the state budget. The MİLGEM corvette will be exported to Pakistan if an agreement can be reached on the technical and budgetary issues during the negotiation process conducted under the coordination of the Department of International Cooperation of SSM.
MSI TDR: What is the latest status with Turkey’s procurement of the Super Mushshak from Pakistan within the context of the Primary Training Aircraft project?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: The procurement of Super Mushshaks is one of the most important indications that the cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan is moving forward on both sides. Our goal is to continue the defence and aerospace industry relations between the two countries through cooperations established around a win-win approach. Within the context of the procurement of the Super Mushshak aircraft, the [approval] decision of the Defence Industry Executive Committee has already been signed, and the goal for the upcoming period is to successfully complete the contract negotiations and sign the contract. As always, the two countries will exchange their capabilities during the procurement process, in which TAI will assume an effective and important role.
There is a Bright Future Ahead
MSI TDR: Like Turkey, Pakistan also finds itself in a challenging region, surrounded by many threats. Pakistan, which has to ensure that its armed forces are always ready for duty, sometimes needs credit mechanisms during defence procurements. In the coming period, will Turkey be able to support Pakistan in this regard? Could you inform us about the latest status of SSM’s works in this area?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: As I also mentioned earlier in connection with MİLGEM project, Turkey is planning to extend a credit to Pakistan for the export of the MİLGEM. A first time implementation of such a practice. There is currently a very busy meeting and correspondence schedule between our Undersecretariat and the Undersecretary of Treasury on this subject. I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to my colleagues and the esteemed officials of the Undersecretary of Treasury.
If we can ensure that the credit practice for the MİLGEM project becomes systematic, this will make a very important contribution to increasing the exports of the Turkish defence and aerospace industry. As you may already know, the currently used Eximbank loans cannot, due to international rules, be extended for weapon systems unfortunately. In this respect, we will be able to overcome this problem if the credit system we intend to use in the MİLGEM project can be put into practice effectively. This will also help pave the way for other projects.
MSI TDR: Which platform and system might be considered in future for possible joint development and production projects?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: The cooperation process between Turkey and Pakistan in the field of defence and aerospace has been making steady progress with each passing day. The government officials and company representatives of both countries are continuously working on potential cooperation opportunities. As two brotherly nations, Turkey and Pakistan will continue to cooperate in the field of defence and aerospace, just as they have until now. As I mentioned, this process will move forward in line with the interests of both countries. Direct exports or procurement is not on the agenda of either Turkey or Pakistan. All the projects in which we cooperate emphasise technology transfer, joint production, and on site production.
Pakistan is currently using the JF-17 fighter jets it has developed jointly with China, and holds a considerable amount of experience in this field. In this context, we would like to benefit from Pakistan’s experience for the Turkish Fighter Development project.
MSI TDR: We see that naval projects have recently become prominent in the defence relations between Turkey and Pakistan. STM has designed Pakistan’s Fleet Replenishment Tanker, and ensured, as the prime contractor of the project, that the tanker was built at the Karachi Shipyard. STM has also undertaken the modernisation of Pakistan’s Agosta 90B submarines. First of all, we would like to ask you about the role of SSM in these projects. What kind of contributions has the SSM made during the signature stage of the contracts, as well as in the stages following the signature?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: The export of defence products and systems cannot be successful without government support. This is the same in almost all countries around the world. When we examine the countries that are the world’s top ten exporters, we can see that they all have public institutions specialising on exports. In other words, they have established public institutions that only deal with the export of defence products and systems, and have created various support mechanisms accordingly. In this respect, we, as the Undersecretariat, have been supporting the export activities of our companies by utilising all the instruments we have at our disposal. STM won the tender for the modernisation of Agosta 90B class submarines against the French DCNS company, which is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the said submarine. There is no doubt that the meetings we held with Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production during the decision phase played a role in this outcome.
MSI TDR: What lessons can the industry learn from these achievements of STM? What approach should the companies in the industry adopt when trying to do business in Pakistan?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: Our defence and aerospace industry relations with Pakistan are quite strong and based on sincerity and trust. For companies wishing to conduct cooperative activities in Pakistan, it is imperative that they first meet with the SSM’s Department of International Cooperation. We also have very close relations with Pakistan’s Military Attaché Office. All cooperation projects are being successfully conducted in coordination with the Department of International Cooperation of our Undersecretariat.
MSI TDR: Mr. Undersecretary, is there anything you would like to add?
Prof. Dr. İsmail DEMİR: I would like to thank you for the interview and wish you success in your work.
On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Prof. Dr. İsmail Demir, Undersecretary for Defence Industries, for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.
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