Ankara seeks to diversify as tensions rise in traditional Middle East markets
Turkey is stepping up defense industry exports to South and Southeast Asian countries such as Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in a drive to diversify beyond traditional customers in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
As well as lower prices than Western competitors, Ankara is offering technology transfers to Asian customers, and joint production projects with few strings attached.
Turkey's biggest-ever arms order is expected to be confirmed shortly by Pakistan, a fellow Muslim country and traditional ally, which plans to pay $1.5 billion for 30 T129 attack helicopters jointly developed by Italy's Agusta Westland and Turkish Aerospace Industries.
Pakistan is also negotiating to acquire four corvettes from STM, a Turkish defense company, for a price in the region of $1 billion. Rana Tanveer Hussain, Pakistan's minister for defense production, told Turkish media in November, that "the process is complete, and construction of the ships will start in near future." Two of the ships will be constructed in Karachi.
However, Pakistan is not the only emerging customer in South and Southeast Asia. At the beginning of December, Turkish defense electronics maker Aselsan announced a delivery of remote controlled turret guns to the Malaysian coast guard. The weapons are being assembled, integrated and tested by Malaysian engineers after a training program provided as part of a technology and know-how transfer deal.
Ankara appears determined to expand arms sales in Asia. Turkey rented one of the largest national pavilions at the Thailand Defense and Security 2017 fair in Bangkok in November, which included 18 Turkish defense sector companies.
On the other hand, Turkey's aggressive export strategy sometimes hinders cooperation with others. Japan turned down a request from Turkey for joint development of a tank engine with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries because Ankara insisted on the right to export to countries such as Azerbaijan and Pakistan.