Turkey’s Growing Focus on Emerging and Disruptive Technologies in Defense

Turkey’s defense industry is increasingly focusing on emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) to enhance its military capabilities and modernize its armed forces. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Science and Technology Committee has identified nine key areas of focus for NATO’s EDT-generation efforts, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous systems, quantum technologies, biotechnology, space, and more.

Turkey, in particular, is investing in EDTs and high-tech advancements to bolster its defense capabilities. While the country has faced challenges in industrial advancements, it has excelled in producing and exporting state-of-the-art drones. However, Turkey aims to expand its capabilities beyond drones and is now venturing into AI, robotics, directed energy weapons, and future soldier/exoskeleton technologies.

One notable program is the Kemankeş family of aerial drones developed by Baykar. These intelligent cruise missiles combine features of loitering munitions and cruise missiles, offering versatility in striking targets and conducting intelligence missions. Turkey is also advancing its naval and ground robotic warfare capabilities, with a focus on unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). These assets provide enhanced situational awareness and can serve as force multipliers on the battlefield.

Directed energy weapons and laser guns are gaining attention in Turkey’s defense industry. Roketsan has introduced the Alka Directed Energy Weapon System, which combines electromagnetic jamming and laser destruction capabilities. Aselsan’s Gökberk Mobile Laser Weapon System can detect and intercept UAV threats using radar and electro-optical sensors, offering protection for land and naval platforms.

Turkey is also investing in future soldier technologies, such as the Military Tactical Operation Kit ATOK and the Military Exoskeleton developed by BITES and Aselsan, respectively. These solutions aim to enhance situational awareness, improve combat performance, and reduce physical strain on soldiers.

While Turkey’s defense industry is making strides in EDTs, there are challenges to overcome. The industry is monopolized, hindering collaboration between the public and private sectors. Additionally, there is a shortage of skilled human capital, and the proportion of STEM graduates in Turkey is relatively low compared to other countries. Turkey also needs to increase its high-tech exports to fully leverage its defense industry potential.