Political alliance with Qatar creates strong armaments business for Turkey

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The Turkish armaments industry enjoys great popularity in Qatar. This has a lot to do with Turkey’s foreign policy objectives, explains an analysis of the military website Defense News.

One recent example of the convergence of geopolitics and armaments industry is Ankara’s thriving business with Qatar, Turkey’s closest ally in the Middle East.

In this very volatile part of the world, Turkey and Qatar have pursued a common policy on several differences of opinion between other actors. They support political Islam. In this context, they stand up for different currents of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East. A prominent example was the short-lived government of Muhammad Mursi in Egypt in 2013, but the Palestinian Hamas organisation in the Gaza Strip is also supported. In Libya, on the other hand, the alliance relies on the internationally recognized unity government in Tripolis and conservative tribal structures in Misrata.

The US ally, whose relations with Turkey have been rather poor for years, classified Turkey and Qatar as „islamist“. On 13 December, Trump’s national security adviser McMaster condemned Qatar and Turkey for allegedly playing a „new role“ as main sponsors and sources of funding for an extremist Islamic ideology. Only a few days later, however, McMaster had to back down from his claims.

Regionally, Turkey and Qatar challenge the Gulf Alliance from Saudi Arabia and Emirate

The Turkish-Qatari alliance proves to be immune to western criticism or friction with the regional alliance of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who themselves want to lead the Sunni Muslim world and compete with Ankara and Doha for influence. For example, Turkey joined Qatar in June when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt broke off relations with Qatar. They insinuate that Doha supports terrorism and destabilises the Middle East. During the crisis, Saudi Arabia closed its land border with its small neighbour, which brought much of Qatar’s food supply. Turkey sent emergency aid and supplies to Qatar. The little sheikdom categorically rejected the accusations from Riyadh. Behind the initiative is a Saudi strategy to conceal its geopolitical rivalry with Doha under the guise of anti-terrorist accusations.

Such strong political convergence inevitably boosted military relations and procurement relations between Ankara and Doha. Turkey’s first foreign military base was opened in Qatar in 2016. It serves to counter what Turkish and Qatari officials call „the same threats“: the Turkish base houses more than 3,000 soldiers, including ground troops, special forces and military instructors. The legal framework for the Turkish base was created in 2015, when the allies signed a comprehensive military agreement granting both countries the right to deploy soldiers on each other’s territory.

At the same time, procurement relations in the defence industry also began to flourish. In 2015, the military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s largest defence company, won a subcontract to equip planned Turkish attack and patrol boats for the Qatari coastguard.

At the beginning of 2017, the state-controlled Turkish military software company Havelsan built a flight simulator for AgustaWestland AW139 military helicopters, which was delivered to the Qatari military. At least 1,000 pilots will be trained annually at the simulation center of the al-Udaid military base in Qatar. Turkey has already trained 55 Qatari military helicopter pilots.

Qatar promotes Turkish armaments industry

Applying for larger projects, a Qatar investment fund acquired 50 percent of the shares in BMC, a leading Turkish manufacturer of armoured vehicles. BMC is one of three bidders in a multi-billion dollar contract for the serial production of a series of 1,000 domestic Turkish tanks of the latest generation. BMC competes with Otokar and FNSS for the Altay series production order.

BMC is also a bidder in a five-way competition to design, develop and produce the power pack, consisting of engine and transmission system, for the Altay main battle tank.

BMC aims to export Altay tanks to Qatar, the Gulf region, the Middle East and Asian markets, according to the company’s managers. In 2015, BMC founded the Turkish joint venture RBSS in Malaysia together with the German company Rheinmetall and Etika Strategi.

Kuwait moving up again on Turkey’s BFF list

„Qatar is a strong political ally“, stressed a high-ranking Turkish diplomat who deals with the Gulf region, to Defense News author Burak Ege Bekdil. „There’s nothing more natural than allies entering into joint sourcing programs and partnerships.“

Recently, the Turkish shipyard Ares delivered the first of several fast patrol vessels for the Qatar coastguard. The 150 Hercules OPV vessels were handed over to the Qatari Ministry of the Interior.

The 48-metre-long ship can reach a maximum speed of 30 knots and is used for patrols, counter-terrorism and other operations.

There are good prospects for a significant increase in[Turkish arms exports] over the next five years, especially when Turkish companies are concerned with systems integration, content, subsystems and the production of engines for air, sea and land platforms,“said Ozgur Eksi, an analyst at the Turkish military portal C4defence. com in Istanbul.

A Turkish procurement officer added that „manufacturers [of land and naval platforms], in particular manufacturers of armoured vehicles, have very good opportunities to win new contracts“.



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