On 2-May 2019, I visited the 14th IDEF Defense Fair in Beylikdüzü.
In order to participate in the event, I had to apply via the internet in advance and receive a security clearance. Only then, I was admitted. Upon arrival at the fairgrounds, I saw a long queue and a strict security check. The location was easy to get to by Marmaray and the Metrobus; there was no parking allowed for the strict procedures.
At the exhibition, the first thing that got my attention was the Koç Group’s Otokar military vehicles.: the autocar armored tracked communication vehicles Tulpar Corba Akra.
There were many locally manufactured hand pistols, automatic rifles, armored combat vehicles, helicopters, aircraft drones, missiles, rockets, storm howitzer, warship models, combat boots, camouflages, and security scanner equipment.
Companies such as Aselsan, Roketsan, Meteksan, Tusaş, FNSS, Kale, Nurol had all leased booths. There were also some foreign supplier companies from the Ukraine, Pakistan, Italy, Germany, Russia, China and Singapore.
Our perception of threat is very different compared to the NATO and North America. We have an intense civil war danger perception, we have fragile relations with our neighboring countries, we have always been aware of the fact that we live in a difficult geography.
There were a large number of uniformed foreign officers who were visiting the fair. The soldiers were obliged to wear uniforms while visiting the exhibition, so all around us were uniformed military officers, police and special operations personnel.
The defense and interior ministers also showed up at the fair as well as many live TV interviews. I asked about the purpose of the special eye glasses on a combat armed soldier with full equipment, and he said, “We can see the presence of people with these glasses, their heart, dead or alive”.
Very sensitive new information was casually being shared at the exhibition. The armed forces, the gendarmerie, security personnel, coast guard, everyone was introducing themselves. Defense consulting firms, magazines, and defense publications had hired stands to introduce their services.
There were many local as well as foreign troops, all with great interest, that visited the exhibition. One high ranking foreign officer asked to his translator in amazement: “Are all these products made in Turkey?”
There were lots of excellent tea and coffee service all the time, and there was also a buffet that offered affordable food to those that were hungry.
It was announced that there were export agreements made with Malaysia, Vietnam, Qatar, Oman, the USA and Germany for mine resistant armored military vehicles. Turkey is expected to export 2b $ of defense products in 2019, and this figure is increasing every year.
Defense industry has become a big business, this biyearly exhibition which was held in Ankara in the past, is now moved to Istanbul.
Recent defense politics, latest information on the S400 missile systems as well as Patriot systems, the F35 situation, Su57, nuclear industry, high tech communications, cyber security issues were also discussed. On display were computers and tablets designed to work under harsh field conditions, computer-aided cartography, durable shoes, boots, helmets and armors.
In our geography, energy and defense go side by side. Therefore, we wish for more enthusiasm and local production capabilities for defense and energy markets.