Mar 19, 2023
Erdogan Turns to Jets to Boost Support in Turkey’s Election
(Bloomberg) -- President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a display of new military jets to drum up support for his election campaign this weekend, a show of force ahead of elections in May that will test his two decades in power.
Turkey unveiled its first fighter jet, the TF-X, as well as light attack aircraft, which rolled out of their hangars and conducted taxi. Authorities also shared the image of a stealthy combat drone on the tarmac for the first time on Saturday.
Turkey’s home-grown arms have been important to bolster Erdogan’s image at home but have also made waves abroad. Ankara’s push to improve its arms technology has pitched it into uneasy new alliances and convulsed ties with its traditional NATO partners. Turkish-made drones have been used by Ukraine to repel Russian invading forces.
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The display of military might was aimed at showcasing Erdogan’s role in building Turkey’s defense industry. It took place on the anniversary of a key World War I victory at Gallipoli. Erdogan attended a ceremony to honor the fallen soldiers in that battle that had important symbolic weight in the formation of modern Turkey.
Erdogan, who came to power more than 20 years ago, is seeking to extend his rule in elections on May 14 and hopes ambitious arms projects will increase his popularity among nationalist and conservative voters. He’s facing the toughest election of his career against the broadest-ever grouping of opposition parties, which are vying to end to his increasingly authoritarian leadership.
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The president on Sunday inaugurated a facility that will produce boron carbide, which is used to make bulletproof armor vests, helicopter seats and armors for tanks. Turkey is striving to develop more of its own military assets, including domestic engines for tanks and warplanes, so it can rely less on foreign manufacturers.
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“With the production of boron carbide, we will have a key defense industry product that is used from planes to tactical vehicles as well as protective vests,” Erdogan said at the opening of the facility, which aims to produce 1,000 tons of boron carbide per year in the western Balikesir province. “With this project we’re adding value to our vast boron mineral deposits and becoming the producer and exporter of the world’s third-hardest substance.”
Erdogan said Turkey’s development of its defense sector has been slowed down due to “sanctions” from NATO allies, adding that it will build another boron carbide facility with an annual capacity of 5,000 tons in the western province of Kutahya.
Turkey Urges US to Lift Defense Industry Sanctions, Sell F-16s
Washington remains wary about Turkey’s possession of an advanced Russian missile-defense system at a time when Ankara is hoping to purchase new F-16 warplanes from the US.
Turkey took delivery of the S-400 missile-defense system made by Russia in 2019, two years after Ankara signed an agreement with Moscow to buy the system in the hope that the cooperation could help it develop similar technology. The US sanctioned Turkey and barred it from working on and receiving Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 stealth jets in response.
Turkey recently test-fired a locally made, short-range ballistic missile. Erdogan has since said the nation is working on increasing the range of its domestically-built Tayfun missiles.
(Updates with details and context in first three paragraphs.)
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